Environmental Information Systems for Tailings Management

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An EU Directive is forcing waste disposal sites, such as refuse tips and landfills, to upgrade their anti-leaching precautions. This is especially the case in Sweden. Here, in its home market, Trelleborg is able to provide these sites with an environmentally friendly, seam-weldable rubber membrane to meet the stringent new requirements.

An EU Directive came is now in force that strengthened the environmen-tal requirements for refuse disposal sites. Sweden's refuse tips have for many years been among the worst in the EU, largely due to the extensive areas of uninhabit-ed land in the country. Most of the other countries in the EU are more densely populated, which has forced them to deal with their refuse in a more environmentally friendly manner. Many Swedish refuse tips do not meet the new requirements and will have to close or be modernized. It is estimated that some 300 municipal refuse tips and 400 industrial landfill sites will have to be upgraded or closed during the next eight years.

The problem with these refuse tips is that they continue to present an environmental threat even if they are no longer in use. The leaching action of rainwa-ter releases environmentally hazardous substances into the natural environment. It is imperative that this process be halted by covering over the dis-used refuse tips. In addition, ponds will need to be built, in which the leachate that continues to seep out can be collected and treated. This also applies to the refuse tips that will remain in use. Since it is difficult to fully treat the water, the normal practice is to use the treated leachate to water ‘energy’ forests, where the plants can absorb the remaining harmful substances: when the energy forest is subsequently incinerated, the environmentally hazardous sub-stances can be isolated and ren-dered harmless.

Trelleborg Rubber Mem-branes' Elastoseal EPDM Geomembrane product is one of the best solutions on the market both for covering refuse tips and for building leachate ponds in municipal refuse tips and indus-trial landfills. Previously, land-fills were usually covered using plastic membranes, but these lack many of the material prop-erties that Elastoseal EPDM possesses, such as its elasticity, ease of installation in cold weather and durability. It is also puncture-resistant and can with-stand exposure to most chemi-cals.

Previously, one of the prob-lems with using rubber membranes was joining the sheets together. Trelleborg has solved this problem by develop-ing a unique seam-welding tech-nique - the Thermobond TPE seam-welding system. This tech-nique could previously only be used with thermoplastic geo-membranes. Since the material in question is rubber-based, in-stallation can be carried out in temperatures down to minus 15°C, which further broadens the geographic market for the product.

In order to be able to quality--assure the installation and bonding of the sheets - which typically measure 1,000 m2 or more - it is important to be able to test the tightness of the seams at the worksite. The seams are made in the form of two par-allel welds with an air channel between them, which enables the joins to be tested using com-pressed air. A fall in the pressure indicates the presence of a leak.

Elastoseal EPDM Geomem-bran is an excellent environ-mental choice, both during use and afterwards. The sheeting does not contain any environmentally haz-ardous substances and no leaching or emission of chemicals occurs throughout its lifetime. At the end of its useful life, the sheeting can be recycled, landfilled or incin-erated for energy recovery. “Given that there are so many refuse tips that need to be covered or provided with leachate ponds, we see this as an entirely new market that is opening up right in our own backyard,' says Bo Peterson, marketing manager at Trelleborg Rubber Membranes, with con-siderable satisfaction. 'We have carried out a major marketing program during, with focusing on the new Directive, and have already begun to see results.'

1) Leachate pond, for watering of energy forests, at Bredemad landfill in Ljungby. The 16,000-m2 membrane was installed over a period of two weeks.

2) Seam welding of the 90 x 5-meter pan-els with an automatic seam-welding device producing channel welds.

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