Landfills are usually open-aired and exposed to the elements, which is why severe weather can create problems for waste management companies and landfill owners. Strong winds and heavy downpours can carry loose refuse beyond the confines of the landfill. They can also cause leachate to seep into the soil beneath the facility.
Large thunderstorms and cyclones can dump more water than landfills were designed to handle in a short period of time, so how can these facilities be made to be more weather-proof? New landfills are made to adhere to more strict regulations and the standards are a lot higher than they were a couple of decades ago.
New landfills are capable of handling bigger storms
Landfill operators and contractors are more aware of weather irregularities nowadays. New landfills are being built with a larger on-site capacity for leachate storage. They are being designed with bigger stormwater ponds and some cover the surface of the landfill with a waterproof cap to prevent too much water from soaking through the refuse and into the soil below.
Landfills also have carefully designed contours that allow stormwater to flow off the land without washing away loose and plastic refuse. Stormwater ditches usually surround the landfill and are capable of carrying large volumes of water away from the site without eroding the surrounding soil.
Weather is becoming more severe
Landfills are usually designed to have stormwater systems that are capable of handling 25-year design storms; those large weather events that are statistically probable every 25 years. That means that facilities built today are far better suited to climate abnormalities than those built over 25 years ago.
Although South Africa generally has mild storms and is not prone to cyclones or tornadoes, these severe storms have been recorded in the recent past in various parts of the country. This means that these types of weather events could become more common in the future and so landfills need to be prepared for these types of storms.
Some landfills are currently being designed with 50 or 100-year storms in mind – those severe storms that only happen once every half or full-century. It is impossible to predict future weather patterns when looking so far in advance, but the waste management industry is preparing for the possibility of bigger storms than seen before.
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