Will it Protect Us?
Hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste are generated annually. Until we eliminate the need for waste-disposal sites, we must find safe ways to dispose of it. We most commonly think of waste when we put out the trash and recycling for collection. But where does it go? Also, what about more dangerous types of waste, like waste that comes from energy generation or mining of resources like gold or uranium? Ultimately, waste finds its way to a site where it lies on or beneath the ground, where it can contaminate surface and ground water. Dr. Kerry Rowe, Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, addresses this need for a wide range of wastes, including municipal, industrial, hazardous, nuclear and mine waste. His research focuses on the measures in place in waste-disposal sites to ensure environmental protection, recognizing that some of them can, and will, fail at some time. Rowe examines both geotechnical and geoenvironmental aspects of the environmental protection systems in waste-disposal sites, including covers, systems to collect garbage fluids, and liners. Irrespective of whether the materials used are natural (e.g., soils, such as gravel) or manmade (e.g., plastics), his research is addressing the question of how long it will last and what happens if it fails. With his research, Rowe hopes to answer the need to develop cost-effective techniques to safely dispose of waste, as well as guidelines and regulations that will provide long-term protection of the environment.