Documenting spatial and temporal variations of subsurface contaminants using tree-cores in the remote community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Southern Labrador: Implications for the design of effective waste management strategies

Lay Summary 

Landfills are an important method of organised waste disposal. Landfills inevitably generate leachate, and when that leachate is improperly managed, it pollutes nearby groundwater resources, soil, and air. This environmental pollution poses a risk to human health. Such risks necessitate careful control of spatial and temporal variations in environmental conditions during a landfill's operational lifespan and after its closure. This is necessary in a better design of waste management strategies in general, and assessment, remediation or containment plans in particular. Conventional methods (soil and groundwater) are expensive, time-consuming, and ecologically damaging or complex in inhabited areas, and also fail to provide a historical record of the environmental conditions, which is necessary to predict future movements of contamination. 

This project will investigate the temporal and special variability of contaminants at contaminated landfill sites in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Contamination events will also be dated using tree-core analysis (phytoscreening and dendrochemistry) and tree-ring characterization (dendrochronology). Tree core analysis represents a unique method to detect subsurface pollutants, petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, trace metals (including mercury) and age-date past environmental impacts, thus enabling the reconstruction of a sites environmental history. So far in Newfoundland and Labrador, no previous study has been undertaken on the applications of tree core methods for detecting the contaminants in soils and aquifers, or to assess the environmental impacts associated with contamination events. 

The research will provide a fundamental understanding of contaminants uptake by the tree species and provide data from which sustainable waste management strategies can be formulated.

Labrador Institute
Earth Sciences
Environmental Science
Harris Centre MMSB Waste Management Applied Research Fund
Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Newfoundland and Labrador
Municipal Development
Environmental Assessment
Waste Management
Polar Climate
Pollution Control
Pollution Prevention
Environmental Risk Assesment
Industry Sectors 
Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
Mining and Quarrying (except Oil and Gas)
Start date 
1 Aug 2014