Closure of the Umlazi landfill : meeting statutory requirements for engineering and plant cover.
This study investigated the establishment of vegetation cover planted in plug and seedling form in the closure phases of the Umlazi Landfill. It also investigated the various facets of the closure process of the Umlazi Landfill and the effect these have on the establishment and choice of vegetative cover, and the grass technology used to make the establishment of vegetation a success. The setting up of trials and the gathering of basic data were undertaken to assess the alternative vegetation options available to researchers. The cover provided by the grasses was assessed in the investigation. The capping of landfill sites is a relatively new approach and it is soon to become a mandatory requirement by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (Minimum Requirements for Waste Disposal) (DWAF, 1998). This systematic investigation used in the closure of the Umlazi Landfill, will provide a model for the capping of landfills in South Africa. Seeing that this was the first hazardous (H:h) landfill site in the country to be closed according to the Minimum Requirements for Waste Disposal (DWAF, 1998), every attempt was made to ensure that all aspects in the closure of the site met with the Minimum Requirements. The Minimum Requirements document mentions only briefly that the landfill must be vegetated with some grass type. Prior to 1994, capped landfill sites were usually planted with traditional grass seed mixes and these were not widely successful, as seen on many older landfills that have been partially or completely capped, and where vegetation cover is sparse. There is much literature in the developed countries on the closure of landfills (e.g., Erickson, During the site inspections in June 2001 and February 2002, it was noted that many species of alien plants had established themselves in the poor soil conditions. This made it even more important to find indigenous vegetation to vigorously establish itself that would prevent the establishment of alien invaders. Samples of grass species established on some part of the site were also taken for identification. The dominant grass was identified as Cynodon dactylon. In view of establishing a balanced vegetative cover on top of the Umlazi Landfill, Acacia karoo trees (in seedling form) were also planted. Three bunch grass species, Melinis nerviglumis, Melinis minutiflora and Hyparrhenia hirta, were tested to see if thatching grass could be grown on the site to generate a cash crop for local residents of Umlazi township. Preparation and planting of the capped areas took place in the latter part of 2003 and were completed in early 2004. Measurements and field data were recorded and statistically analysed. The trials revealed three key findings: Firstly, both creeping grasses studied, namely Cynodon dactylon var. “Sea Green” and Panicum natalense var. ”Natal Buffalo Grass” grew well on the site. Initially P. natalense grew faster but after a month, C. dactylon overtook it. At the end of the trial (six months, P. natalense provided a higher level of soil cover. However, C. dactylon grew more consistently over this period. Hence both species provided good growth and cover on this site. Secondly the three bunch grasses, Melinis nerviglumis, Melinis minutiflora and Hyparrhenia hirta, all grew well and had similar survival rates. Hence the potential for growing these grasses as a cash crop has potential. Thirdly, all the Acacia karoo trees survived, i.e., they achieved 100% survival. The average height increase and stem width was similar in all trials and growth was consistent over the six month growing period. Hence the tree species would be a good choice for planting on landfills in its ecologically suitable zones. It is therefore feasible to envisage the planting of a mixture of grasses under the cover of A. karoo trees, to provide a balanced mixture of indigenous grasses to cover a freshly capped landfill. Such a system should provide for stable growth of vegetation for many years.