Report Abstract

GEOHYDROLOGY OF THE UNSATURATED ZONE AND SIMULATED TIME OF ARRIVAL OF LANDFILL LEACHATE AT THE WATER TABLE, MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE LANDFILL FACILITY, U.S. ARMY AIR DEFENSE ARTILLERY CENTER AND FORT BLISS, EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS

by Peter F. Frenzel and Cynthia G. Abeyta

The U.S. Air Defense Artillery Center and Fort Bliss Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Facility (MSWLF) is located about 10 miles northeast of downtown El Paso, Texas. The landfill is built on the Hueco Bolson, a deposit that yields water to five public-supply wells within 1.1 miles of the landfill boundary on all sides. The bolson deposits consist of lenses and mixtures of sand, clay, silt, gravel, and caliche. The unsaturated zone at the landfill is about 300 feet thick. The Hydrologic Evaluation of Landfill Performance (HELP) and the Multimedia Exposure Assessment Model for Evaluating the Land Disposal of Wastes (MULTIMED) computer models were used to simulate the time of first arrival of landfill leachate at the water table.

Site-specific data were collected for model input. At five sites on the landfill cover, hydraulic conductivity was measured by an in situ method; in addition, laboratory values were obtained for porosity, moisture content at field capacity, and moisture content at wilting point. Twenty-seven sediment samples were collected from two adjacent boreholes drilled near the southwest corner of the landfill. Of these, 23 samples were assumed to represent the unsaturated zone beneath the landfill. The core samples were analyzed in the laboratory for various characteristics required for the HELP and MULTIMED models: initial moisture content, dry bulk density, porosity, saturated hydraulic conductivity, moisture retention percentages at various suction values, total organic carbon, and pH. Parameters were calculated for the van Genuchten and Brooks-Corey equations that relate hydraulic conductivity to saturation. A reported recharge value of 0.008 inch per year was estimated on the basis of soil- water chloride concentration.

The HELP model was implemented using input values that were based mostly on site-specific data or assumed in a conservative manner. Exceptions were the default values used for waste characteristics. Flow through the landfill was assumed to be at steady state. The HELP-estimated landfill leakage rate was 101.6 millimeters per year, approximately 500 times the estimated recharge rate for the area near the landfill.

The MULTIMED model was implemented using input values that were based mainly on site-specific data and some conservatively assumed values. Landfill leakage was assumed to begin when the landfill was established and to continue at a steady-state rate of 101.6 millimeters per year as estimated by the HELP model. By using an assumed solute concentration in the leachate of 1 milligram per liter and assuming no delay or decay of solute, the solute serves as a tracer to indicate the first arrival of landfill leachate. The simulated first arrival of leachate at the water table was 204 to 210 years after the establishment of the landfill.

Abstract for Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4036



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