Waste & Recycling

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SWANA report looks at landfill end of life


A new report by the SWANA Applied Research Foundation (ARF) addresses two important questions associated with the landfill disposal of waste: What tasks will be required to manage closed landfills following the post-closure care period to ensure continued protection of public health and the environment, and how will their associated costs be paid for?

ARF recently published research on the long-term management (LTM) that will be needed for closed landfills following the 30-year post-closure care period required under current U.S. regulations.

In 1991, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated new regulations for landfills used for
the disposal of MSW. As the regulations were issued under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act (RCRA), these MSW landfills are commonly referred to as “Subtitle D” landfills.

The regulations require that the post-closure care (PCC) period—the time period during which the closed
landfill site is maintained and the environmental protection systems are managed and monitored—should be 30
years in length, unless otherwise lengthened or shortened by the state regulatory agency that issued the landfill
permit.

Once the PCC period is over, the closed landfill enters into a new status, which SWANA has defined as the
“Long-Term Management”, or LTM period. Importantly, the EPA Subtitle D regulations do not address the type of monitoring and maintenance activities that should be required during the LTM period, how long these activities
should be conducted, or how they should be financed.

The ARF report addresses key issues such as the expected service life of the landfill’s final cover system and the tasks that will need to be performed to ensure the long-term protection of public health and the environment. The report also addresses the issue of how long-term management activities can be financed.

“SWANA continues to be at the forefront of identifying solutions to challenging solid waste issues, and this important new report provides useful information and data for solid waste managers and their communities,” stated David Biderman, SWANA Executive Director and CEO.

“We need to assure the public that today’s landfills will not only provide communities with needed solid waste disposal services but that they will continue to protect public health and the environmental for hundreds of years following their closure,” he added.

The report provides reassuring evidence regarding the efficacy of the federal design standards that have been established for these facilities. For example, the research study concluded that it is unlikely that the geomembrane in the landfill’s final cover system would need to be replaced for 2,000 years following its installation.

“We appreciate the support and involvement of our Disposal Group subscribers who submitted and voted for this important research topic and provided funding support for the research effort,” said Jeremy O’Brien, SWANA’s Director of Applied Research.

SWANA wants the report to serve as a reference for solid waste managers who are responsible for the provision of landfill disposal services for their communities.

The full report, The Long-Term Management of Closed MSW Landfills Following the Post-Closure Care Period, is currently available only to SWANA ARF subscribers.