Engineers Australia

2017 Karl Terzaghi Lecture: Protecting the environment with geosynthetics

Dr. R. Kerry Rowe

Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Queen’s University, Canada

Geosynthetics are now widely used to contain fluids and protect the environment. Applications include most modern landfills, lagoons for contaminated fluid and drinking water, dams, and mining applications where loss of fluid to surface water or groundwater must be minimized. These systems often involve a single liner with welded panels of geomembrane liner, a geosynthetic clay liner, or a composite liner with a geomembrane over a clay liner. For large landfills or other higher-risk applications, a double liner system with a geocomposite or granular drain between two liners is used. Most frequently designs have used materials that meet a minimum set of commonly specified index parameters. This lecture draws together field observations, long-term experimental data, and theory to show how, and why, these systems have worked so well while highlighting the importance of design and construction considerations that, if overlooked, can cause problems. It then discusses the means of avoiding pitfalls.