Rowan Receives $260K To Study Effects Of Climate Change On Landfills

By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern

GLASSBORO, N.J. – Rowan University was recently granted $260,339 in order to explore the way landfills could change under different climate conditions. With this grant, Rowan University will build a virtual reality predictive analytics platform that will use artificial intelligence to study the effects on landfills under environmental conditions worsened by climate change. Additionally, the study will be able to show the effect landfills have on water quality. 

Conditions such as intense storms and rising temperatures can damage landfill liners, which leads to toxic chemicals from landfills leaking into watersheds. Rowan University’s project will help predict what would become of these landfills in certain weather scenarios.

Dr. Jeong Eun Ahn, assistant professor in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the project’s principal investigator explained the importance of this study.

“Predicting the landfill conditions under future storm events is crucial to protect the environment and public health, and could reduce environmental injustice with proper design and siting of infrastructure,” said Dr. Ahn. 

In order to collect data, the research team at Rowan University will gather satellite imagery of the landfill, the temperature and gas at different depths from wells drilled in the landfills, groundwater from nearby wells, and surface water measurements. From there, the research team will build artificial intelligence and watershed models that will predict how this data will change under various climate and weather conditions. 

In South Jersey, there are about 40 solid waste landfills that are 35 acres and longer. The most landfills of this size are located in the Gloucester County area. Solid waste landfills hold household waste, septage, scrap metal, latex paints, furniture and toys, appliances and vehicles, and oil and antifreeze. The United States Environmental Protection Agency discovered that landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions. Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The research team will create an analysis tool that will assess the potential threat to water sources from landfills that experience extreme flooding. The team aims to train landfill staff so active landfills can be properly maintained using the knowledge learned from the project. 

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