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FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Tarek Abichou, Ph.D., P.E.

Evapotranspiration (ET) Covers:

Final covers are used to reduce the quantity of water that infiltrates into the waste mass in solid and hazardous waste storage containment facilities.  The primary objective of the cover is to reduce the amount of leachate that is generated and therefore minimize the risk of groundwater contamination.  Current regulations require that these covers be constructed with clayey soils or with geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs).  These types of covers, also referred to as prescriptive covers, tend to be expensive and prune to degradation due to wet-dry cycling.  An alternative approach is to use Evapo-Transpiration (ET) Covers.  This type of cover exploits the water storage capacity of finer textured soils and the water removal capability of vegetation to reduce infiltration into the underlying waste.  

I have received funding from the Florida Center of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management to investigate the feasibility of using evapo-transpiration (ET) covers on Florida landfills.  I also received the “Science To Achieve Results” (STAR) award from the U.S. EPA to construct lysimeters to assess the feasibility evapo-transpiration (ET) covers in the field.  I was involved with the University of Alaska ET Cover study. I am still a member of the original USEPA Alternative Cover Assessment Program (ACAP) research team.  I was involved in the installation and the monitoring of lysimeters across the country. 

The U.S. EPA engaged me to access the existing situation of landfills in Puerto Rico and develop a Guidance Document to remediate existing landfillsin the Island with ET covers. Several design guidelines were developed for the different micro-climates of the Island.  The U.S. EPA and Colorado Department Public Health and Environment, publishedaGuidance Document on water balance cover designs at solid waste sites for the entire state of Colorado largely based on the findings of ourModeling study on“Water Balance Covers for Colorado Ecozones.”

Tarek Abichou Test Pad Construction Leon County Landfill

Mitigating Landfill CH4Emissions:

Methane is a greenhouse gas with an infrared activity 25 times that of CO2.  Its concentration has increased in the atmosphere by more than a factor of 2 over the last century. The bulk of CH4 emissions are anthropogenic and could be reduced.  Globally, landfills make up 40 Tg/yr of a 500 Tg/yr total source (8% of global emissions).  In Florida and other states, several old landfills were closed and/or in need of closing with no gas management plans. These landfills can be significant source of odors and green house gases.  Gas extraction tends to be expensive and out of the reach of most small communities managing their solid waste facilities.  An attractive alternative is to incorporate a bio-reactive layer into the design of a landfill cover or in areas with significant release of gas into the atmosphere (typically referred to as hot spots). Through sound environmental policy, based upon scientific observation, there is a greater potential to reduce CH4 input to the atmosphere compared to CO2.  

My most significant national and international impact on the state of practice in my discipline,has been achieved by my work in mitigating CH4 emissions in landfills. My research productivity on this topic hasbuilt my national and international reputation in the solid waste research and consulting community. I received funding from the Florida Center of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), National Science Foundation (NSF), Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), and Waste Management Inc. for laboratory, field, and modeling studiesto mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.  This effort was capped by the publication of our BMP entitled: Guidance Document to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Landfills.  This document was the main reference used by U.S. EPA in their report Available and Emerging Technologies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Municipal Solid Waste Landfills, published by the office of Air and Radiation in June 2011.

Biofilters Tarek AbichouBucket Biofilters Tarek Abichou

H2S concentrations in landfill gas range from below 3 ppb to 12,000 ppm. A limited number of studies using various types of cover materials to attenuate H2S emissions have been performed both at the laboratory and field scale. I have investigated the use of waste materials to reduce emission of hydrogen sulfide from landfills to attenuate odors.  I have obtained funding for a 2 years study to develop a technique (Gas Push Pull Test-GPPT) to quantify H2S oxidation in landfill cover soils.  Recently, I investigated the H2S generation from sulfur containing Materials and Recovery Facility (MRF) fines in South Florida. This study evaluated the MRF fines by itself and as a blended mix with soil.  Sulfide emissions from the test cells were negligible. Currently, I am investigating the use of a bio-cover consisting of peat and compost to reduce H2S emissions from a landfill in Oregon. I expect to be active in this area for years to come.

Quantifying, Measuring, and Modling Methane Oxidation:

Using our extensive data set of measurements of methane oxidation in landfill covers and our developed model to predict methane oxidation, the U.S. EPA has proposed a change to the rule assigning 10% methane oxidation to landfill covers.  The proposed new rule is a direct outcome of the work we have been doing at FSU.  We measured methane oxidation in landfill covers measured for over 37 seasonal sampling events at 20 different landfills across the USA.  The study spanned four years and five climate types. I also proposed a methodology for scaling methane oxidation, which is a significant contribution to the field.

Tarek Abichou Monitoring StationsTarek Abichou FSU Model

Measurement and Inventory of Landfill Emissions:

We used our large dataset of static flux chamber measurements to develop geo-spatial methods to extend point measurements of methane emissions to total landfill emissions.  I am also involved the use of vertical radial plume mapping to measure methane emissions from more than 20 landfills across the United States, where I introduced a methodology to quantify the uncertainties associated with the use of this technique to estimate surface emissions in landfill applications. I, furthermore, introduced a new approach to characterize area emission contributions from landfills.  Recently, I have started working on the feasibility of using landfill surface ambient methane concentrations, as measured in accordance with regulations set forth in the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) via a portable FID, to estimate methane emissions from landfills. I expect to develop new tools to be used by landfill managers to better control greenhouse gas emissions.

In terms of methane emission inventorying and estimating, I developed a numerical model (FSU Model) that combines water and heat flow with a gas transport and oxidation algorithm to predict surface emissions and methane oxidation in landfills.  The latest version of the FSU model was bundled via a graphical user interface and was renamed as the Landfill Surface Emission Model (LandSEM). 

Tarek Abichou Surface Emission Measurement

Waste Containment Systems

I investigated the effects of freeze-thaw and desiccation on the long-term hydraulic properties of compacted clay liners, sand bentonite mixtures, and goesynthetic clay liners (GCLs) and their stability when permeated different leachates.  These projects involved a variety of different activities requiring very different types of expertise (instrumentation of field sites, field experiments, field data collection and analysis, laboratory experimentation, and finite element modeling).  The findings of this project had immediate impact on the regulatory policies of most Midwestern states.  I also performed research on the hydraulic conductivity of sand-bentonite mixtures.  I conducted a detailed laboratory study, a field study, and developed a numerical model to simulate how bentonite fills the pores in sand, altering its hydraulic conductivity.  



Sustainable Construction and Beneficial Use of Industrial By-Products

I participated in projects dealing with the beneficial use of industrial by-products and shredded tires in civil engineering construction. I developed databases and websites for the American Foundrymens Society and the state of Florida.  One of databases and websites describe methods to reuse foundry byproducts in flowable fills, asphalt, highway embankments, and structural fills with extensive use of case histories in the Great Lakes Region.  The other virtual portal illustrated the locations of various types of Solid Waste Facilities including (but not limited to) landfills, waste to energy facilities, recycling centers, household hazardous waste centers, MRF’s, tire processors, etc. In addition, these portals allowed research organizations to post their waste management and beneficial use related projects. The portals were used to help local businesses reduce disposal costs by finding research projects that need their waste and facilitated the shift of material from the waste stream to more beneficial reuse projects.


Traditional Geotechnical Engineering

The traditional Geotechncial Engineering aspect of my research include investigating the use of electrical conductivity measurement as a quality control for mineral slurries used in the construction of drilled shafts and a laboratory study investigating the effects of vibration on the long-term strength of concrete used for deep foundations. 

Carbon Footprint and Life Cycle Analysis

An important factor in the determination of the environmental sustainability of ethanol production as an energy source is the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted in the raw
product production. Greenhouse gas emissions was determined by using a Life Cycle Analysis Method (LCA) of  ethanol and fossil fuels (oil). The total greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol was then  compared to that of oil.  Carbon dioxide emissions from the production of ethanol occurs during several stages. When the corn is planted in the field, emissions are released from the farming equipment. Emissions during manufacture, transport, and additive applications such as pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer application were also considered.

Due to recent focus on greenhouse gas emissions and their effects on global warming, state, regional, and national inventories of greenhouse gas emissions are being developed.  These inventories will eventually include the solid waste industry and solid waste landfills in particular.  For instance, the State of California is currently in the process of inventorying all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.  These efforts will eventually lead to some form of regulations concerning greenhouse gas emissions including their control and possible carbon trading. A worksheet was developed to estimate the carbon footprint of a typical landfill.  This effort is relatively new and should be considered as a general mass balance for carbon in a solid waste disposal facility with limited waste disposal data.  It is anticipated that this worksheet will be improved as better waste history and landfill operation data becomes available.  The worksheet calculates all CO2 emissions including the biogenic CO2 emissions.  Biogenic CO2 emissions are not considered as part of carbon footprint of the landfill.

Bringing Simple Technology to the World:

In 2008, I received a Fulbright Research Award to assess the feasibility of using water balance landfill covers reduce groundwater contamination in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and to mitigate landfill emission.  In 2011, the Tunisian Government awarded the “Programme de Cooperation Avec Les ChercheursTunisiens Resident a L'Etranger,” award to continue what I started during my Fulbright, where I have investigated the beneficial use of waste in civil engineering applications, investigated the effects of septic tanks on coastal areas, studiedthe effects of seawater intrusion on groundwater, and developed BMPs for irrigating palm tree oases.  With the research team at the University of Gabes, I have published one refereed journal article, one refereed journal article in press, and submitted six others for review.

Contracts and Grants


   Abichou, T., & Watts, M. (Jul 2013–Aug 2014). Leachate Collection Systems Clogging in Florida: A Reality Check. Funded by Hinkley Center. Total award $34,104.

   Abichou, Tarek (PI). (Jun 2012–May 2014). Development Of Techniques To Quantify H2S Oxidation In L. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. (NONE). Total award $115,352.


  Chanton, Jeffrey P (PI), & Abichou, T. (Jan 2010–Mar 2011). Constraining The Effects Of Secondary Porosity On CH4 Ox. Funded by Environmental Research and Education Fdn. (NONE). Total award $100,000.

   Chanton, J., & Abichou, T. (Feb 2009–Jan 2010). Measurement and modeling at WMI landfills Across the USA. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. Total award $90,000.

   Chanton, J., & Abichou, T. (Feb 2008–Jan 2009). Modeling and Isotopic Measurements of landfill methane emission (2). Funded by Waste Management, Inc. Total award $110,000.

   Abichou, Tarek (PI), & Chanton, J. P. (Sep 2007–Feb 2009). Developing a Best Management Practices (BMPs) Manual for. Funded by University of Florida. (UF-EIES-0732025-FSU). Total award $30,000.

   Chanton, J., & Abichou, T. (Feb 2007–Dec 2007). Modeling and Isotopic Measurements of landfill methane emission. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. Total award $110,000.

   Abichou, Tarek (PI), & Tawfiq, K. S. (Nov 2006–Sep 2008). Development of an Informational and Technical Database o. Funded by Leon County. (None). Total award $63,044.

   Abichou, Tarek (PI), & Chanton, J. P. (Oct 2006–Jan 2007). Modeling of GasTransport and Oxidation oat Different Lan. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. (NONE). Total award $28,933.

   Abichou, T. (Sep 2006–Aug 2007). Long Term Performance and Large Scale Implementation of Bio-Oxidation of Landfill Gases to Mitigate Green House Gases and Reduce Odors. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (17138). Total award $55,000.

   Chen, Gang (PI), Chanton, J. P., & Abichou, T. (Aug 2006–Jul 2007). Impact of Landfill Leachate On Iron Release. Funded by University of Florida. (UF-EIES-0632020-FSU). Total award $35,000.

   Mtenga, P., & Abichou, T. (Aug 2006–Jul 2007). Acquisition of Echo Therm System for Non-Destructive Evaluation. Funded by NSF. Total award $183,000.

Chanton, J., & Abichou, T. (May 2006–Aug 2006). Ground-truth for Laser flux measurements. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. Total award $87,000.

Chanton, Jeffrey P (PI), & Abichou, T. (Mar 2006–Sep 2006). Methane Emissions at Springhill and Outer Loop Landfill. Funded by Waste Management, Inc. (NONE). Total award $86,999.

Abichou, Tarek (PI), Tawfiq, K. S., & Chanton, J. P. (Oct 2005–Sep 2007). Beneficial Reuse of Waste Materials (Tire Chips, Glass. Funded by Leon County. (NONE). Total award $165,001.

Abichou, Tarek (PI), & Chanton, J. P. (Sep 2005–Dec 2006). Long Term Performance and Large Scale Implementation. Funded by University of Florida. (UF-EIES-0532017-FSU). Total award $50,124.

Chanton, J., & Abichou, T. (Oct 2004–Sep 2007). Inexpensive Biocover and Biofilter Approaches for Effective Reduction of Methane Emissions from Landfills. Funded by NSF. Total award $389,000.

Abichou, T. (Sep 2004–Dec 2005). Inexpensive Approaches for Reducing Methane and Hydrocarbon Emissions from Landfills. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (215000-540-014568). Total award $50,000.

Abichou, Tarek (PI), & Chanton, J. P. (Sep 2004–Jan 2006). Bio-Reactive Covers Systems: Inexpensive Approaches for. Funded by University of Florida. (UF-EIES-0432028-FSU). Total award $50,000.

Abichou, T. (Aug 2003–Dec 2004). Inexpensive Approaches for Reducing Methane and Hydrocarbon Emissions from Landfills. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (6120-600-41). Total award $65,000.

Abichou, T. (Apr 2003–Mar 2008). Field Assessment of ET Caps. Funded by US EPA. Total award $395,000.

Abichou, T. (Oct 2002–Sep 2004). Lysimeter Design for Assessment of Alternative Earthen Covers. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (6120-588-41). Total award $34,014.

Abichou, T. (Sep 2002–Sep 2003). Bio-Reactive Landfill Covers. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (6120-587-41). Total award $43,000.

 Abichou, T. (May 2002–Aug 2002). First Year Assistant Professor Grant. Funded by FSU. Total award $10,000.

Abichou, T. (Oct 2001–Dec 2002). Assessment of Alternative Earthen Covers for Florida's Landfill. Funded by Florida Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Center. (61-20-578-41). Total award $36,422.