Landfills - Solid and Hazardous Waste and
Groundwater Quality Protection
Dr. Lee has been active in the investigation of impacts of municipal and industrial landfills on groundwater quality since the 1960's. In the 1970's and 1980's, while on university graduate school faculties, he was involved in research sponsored by the US EPA and industry on factors influencing the integrity of landfill liners. Since retiring from university teaching and research in 1989, he has focused a large part of his private consulting practice on conducting site-specific evaluations of the impacts on groundwater quality of existing and proposed landfills in the US and other countries.
Drs. Lee and Jones-Lee publish extensively on a variety of technical issues pertaining to the protection of groundwater quality from waste disposal facilities. Substantial attention is given to addressing inadequacies of the current landfilling approaches for providing such protection, both by discussing technical aspects of the problems and by developing and discussing approaches that would provide more reliable protection. They have identified significant problems with the ability of today's "dry tomb" municipal solid waste landfills and industrial hazardous waste landfills to protect public health, groundwater resources, and the environment from pollution by landfill leachate and gas for as long as the wastes in the landfills represent a threat. These deficiencies stem, in large part, from the inability of today's landfill liner systems to prevent the passage of leachate (garbage juice) through the liner to pollute groundwater, for as long as the wastes in the landfill will be a threat. At best, today's plastic-sheeting and compacted-clay-lined landfills only postpone groundwater pollution. Another significant deficiency is that the groundwater monitoring systems used for today's landfills typically have a low probability of detecting leachate-polluted groundwaters before widespread off-site groundwater pollution has occurred. Recommendations pertaining to landfill siting, design, operation, closure, and post-closure care are also discussed in their publications. Further, they have pioneered in the development of the fermentation/leaching "wet cell" landfilling approach to provide for in situ treatment of the wastes during the time that the liner system is expected to be effective in capturing leachate, to produce non-polluting waste residues. That approach circumvents many of the significant problems with so-called "bioreactor" landfills that are being developed today. Drs. Lee and Jones-Lee have developed a comprehensive review of these issues in their paper addressing the "Flawed Technology" of Subtitle D landfilling.
In addition to their work on landfill issues, Drs. Lee and Jones-Lee have worked with water utilities and others in the development of approaches for groundwater quality protection from other threats. This work has included the development of groundwater quality monitoring programs, as well as groundwater watershed evaluation and management approaches, designed to detect potential groundwater pollution before significant pollution takes place. These issues are discussed in papers in the Groundwater Quality Protection section of this website.
A list of landfills evaluated by Drs. Lee and Jones-Lee, as well as their recent publications pertaining to landfills and groundwater quality protection, are available. A summary of Dr. Lee's experience in working with landfills, as well as additional information on Drs. Lee and Jones-Lee's activities on landfills and groundwater pollution, are also available.
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