Prof's extensive research career results in safer landfills
Kerry Rowe’s 30-year research career has significantly advanced the design and construction of landfill barrier systems, earning him the Engineering Institute of Canada’s highest honour.
“It’s a great honour receiving the Sir John Kennedy Medal; it indicates that profession appreciates the impact my research has had on decreasing the environmental impact of waste disposal in landfills,” says Dr. Rowe, a professor and Canada Research Chair in geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering and former vice-principal of research at Queen’s. “I am getting recognized as a leader of a team, and the research couldn’t be done without the fantastic work of many different people.”
Geoenvironmental engineering had not yet emerged as a field of study when Dr. Rowe began his research career in Canada in 1978. He initially examined clay liners and their effectiveness in preventing harmful contaminants from seeping into ground water and surface water systems. For the last 20 years, he has conducted research on liners composed of synthetic materials as well as on systems that collect the leachate for treatment.
Dr. Rowe is one of the few researchers studying liner performance over a long period of time. Some experiments in his laboratory have been running continuously for 20 years, and he has had the opportunity to use data form 20-25 years of continuous landfill monitoring data at several landfills to check theoretical models he has developed. His findings have not only informed barrier system engineering but influenced regulatory codes in Canada and countries around the world including as far away as Australia and South Africa.
Dr. Rowe gives much of the credit for his research accomplishments to the colleagues and graduate students he has worked with including those at Queen’s, and to funding from government agencies including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
Many countries have made major advancements improving the safety of landfills, in part, thanks to Dr. Rowe’s research. However, new material such as Bisphenol A (BPA), and nanoparticles continue to emerge, and Dr. Rowe and his team are trying to understand how well barrier systems control their migration through modern barriers. Dr. Rowe also looks at ways for improving the construction of barrier systems so they function the way they were designed.
Dr. Rowe will accept the Sir John Kennedy Medal at the EIC banquet in June.