Development of a code of practice for co-disposal to obviate inimical environmental impacts of generated gases and leachates.
Despite its phasing out in numerous countries, such as Germany and the U.S.A., co-disposal of hazardous waste with municipal solid waste continues to be widely practised in South Africa. Co-disposal utilises properties and microbial activities in the refuse to attenuate the hazardous waste and thus obviate its environmental impact potential. All landfill operations require careful planning in not only site selection criteria but also the type and amount of various wastes accepted for disposal. It is clear, however, that the practice of co-disposal requires special precautions and management as the methods employed in the landfill operation determine to a large extent the environmental effects and, thus, the public acceptability of the operations. Although co-disposal is not suitable for all industrial wastes the results of recent research efforts, conducted mainly in the U.K., have indicated that, when properly managed, co-disposal can be regarded as a safe and efficient disposal option for many hazardous wastes. Environmental awareness in many European countries ensures that numerous hazardous compounds are either recycled or recovered. Unfortunately, in South Africa the lack of similar concern has resulted in increased concentrations of toxic compounds being co-disposed on a regular basis. Since fundamental studies of this technology, pertaining to South African conditions, have been lacking laboratory models/microcosms were built to address this paucity. Model. To effect the separation of species habitat domains of component species of growth rate-dependent interacting microbial associations responsible for terminal catabolic processes of the refuse fermentation, with retention of overlapping activity domains, and so facilitate examination of species in isolation without violating the integrity of each association, multi-stage models were constructed. The accidental overgassing of the culture with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) effected interesting fermentation balance changes which also emphasised the need for an Anaerobic Bioassay Test to assess the impacts of specific perturbants. Evidence of differential susceptibility of the component species to phenol was demonstrated in this study. Microcosm. A total of 42 refuse packed single-stage glass column bioreactors were commissioned and subjected to phenol and/or anaerobically digested sewage sludge codisposal. The effects of four different operational modes: leachate discard (single elution); leachate recycle; batch; and simulated rain on the co-disposals as well as refuse catabolism per se were examined. The results of these studies indicated that protracted periods of adaption to phenol (1000 and 2000 mg l -1) could have resulted from nutrient (elemental) limitation. Circumstantial evidence was also gained which indicated that the nitrate- and sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) were particularly sensitive to the added xenobiotic. Further, without the effective participation of the nitrate- and SRB the active and total fermentation of both the phenol and refuse components were depressed. It was also determined that the operating regime employed was a key factor in refuse degradation although with time, and especially following the phenol resupplementations, the operating conditions played a less significant role. In general, the single elution operated columns demonstrated increased phenol removal rates which were, unfortunately, coincident with low pH values and increased leachate residual phenol concentrations. Leachate recycle, on the other hand, unlike the batch operated columns, facilitated increased pH values and methane evolutions. The simulated rain columns were characterised by rapid washout of the added phenol as well as methanogenic precursors. The sewage sludge co-disposal experiments, likewise, demonstrated that, depending on the sludge:refuse ratio, the operating regime was extremely important in optimising the refuse degradation processes although, in general, leachate recycle appeared to be the most favoured method of operation.