LANDFILLS: Hazardous to the Environment
Landfill liners are just 1/10 of an inch thick.
SEE: THE BASICS OF LANDFILLS, plus LANDFILL DIAGRAM
Disposal & Recycling Statistics,Maps&Graphs
LANDFILL VIDEO - this takes several minutes to download
ALL LANDFILL LINERS AND LEACHATE COLLECTION SYSTEMS WILL FAIL ...
"First, even the best liner and leachate collection system will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration, and recent improvements in MSWLF containment technologies suggest that releases may be delayed by many decades at some landfills. For this reason, the Agency is concerned that while corrective action may have already been triggered at many facilities, 30 years may be insufficient to detect releases at other landfills." Source: US EPA Federal Register, Aug 30, 1988, Vol.53, No.168, (scanned document). Check-out Peter Montegue's Rachel's for list of other comments in Federal Register by EPA.
The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, in the "good old days," every town (and many businesses and factories) had its own dump. According to the 1997 U.S. Census, there are 39,044 general purpose local governments in the United States - 3,043 county governments and 36,001 subcounty general purpose governments (towns & townships). One suspects that there are many more old and abandoned commercial, private, and municipal dumps than the 10,000 estimated by the EPA.Municipal landfills and their leachate (water) and air emissions are hazardous. Municipal landfills can accept hazardous waste under federal law. An unlimited number of 'conditionally exempt small generators' of hazardous waste have access to municipal landfills. (See 40 CFR 261.5).
All landfills will eventually fail and leak leachate into ground and surface water. Plastics are not inert. State-of-the-art plastic (HDPE) landfill liners (1/10 inch or 100 mils thick) and plastic pipes allow chemicals and gases to pass through their membranes, become brittle, swell, and breakdown.
"...82% of surveyed landfill cells had leaks while 41% had a leak area of more than 1 square feet," according to Leak Location Services, Inc. (LLSI) website (March 15, 2000).
According to Dr. Fred Lee, "detection in new landfills can be difficult since the only way to know this is detection in the monitoring wells. The likelihood of a monitoring well at a single or double lined landfill detecting an initial leak is very small." Monitoring wells should be located in areas most likely to detect contamination (i.e., testing the ground water after it has passed under the landfill.) See: Subchapter I: Solid Waste. Lined landfills leak in very narrow plumes, whereas old, unlined landfills will produce wide plumes of leachate.
Old and new landfills are typically located next to large bodies of water (i.e., rivers, lakes, bays, etc), making leakage detection and remediation (clean-up) extremely difficult. This is due to the incursion of surface water in both instances. Federal and state governments have allowed landfill operators to locate landfills next to water bodies under the misguided principle: Detection by monitoring wells can also be very difficult at lined landfills. Lined landfills leak in very narrow plumes, whereas old, unlined landfills will produce wide plumes of leachate.
Ground water flows downstream, or toward nearby lakes and rivers. In some cases, monitoring wells have been located around landfills in areas least likely to detect leakage (i.e., upstream of the groundwater flow). This is in violation of federal law. See Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Chapter I - Environmental Protection Agency, Subchapter I: Solid Waste / PART 258 (Updated 1997) - Criteria for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills (Adobe PDF). If a landfill is located next to a water body, then the monitoring wells should be located between the landfill and the water; or (if there is no space left), in the water. See: EPA's Ground Water Monitoring
All landfills could require remediation, but particularly landfills built in the last 60 years will require a thorough clean-up due to the disposal of highly toxic chemicals manufactured and sold since the 1940's. See:Remediation and Brownsfields
|EXPERTS & WEBSITES: |
SEE: THE BASICS OF LANDFILLS, plus LANDFILL DIAGRAM
New "WET" Landfills - BIOREACTORS - cause concerns:
Alliance For a Clean Environment (ACE)- This Pennsylvania group has collected a significant amount of information on landfill gas.
TYPICAL CONSTITUENTS AND COMPOUNDS FOUND IN LANDFILL GAS
TABLE 1: Typical Constituents Found in Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Gas
Component Percent (dry volume basis)*
Carbon Dioxide 40-60%
Sulfides, disulfides, mercaptans,etc. 0-0.2%
Carbon Monoxide 0-0.2%
Trace Constituents 0.01-0.6%
* Exact percentage distribution will vary with the age of the landfill.
TABLE 2: Typical Concentrations of Some Trace Compounds Found in Landfill Gas
Component Mean Concentration (pbV, parts per billion by volume)
Ethyl Benzene 7,334
Vinyl Acetate 5,663
Vinyl Chloride 3,508
Methyl Ethyl Ketone 3,092
SOURCE: G. Tchobanoglous, H. Theisen and S. Vigil, "Integrated Solid Waste Management, Engineering Principles and Management Issues," McGraw-Hill, New York, 1993. Shown here as reproduced in J.Wilcos, Ph.D., and W.Clister, "Waiting is Over: Landfills Have Clean Air Act Rules," Solid Waste Technologies, March/April 1996.
Provided by Dan Knapp of Urban Ore, Berkley, California
LANDFILL GAS & FIRE INFORMATION:
Write off for research papers from The University of Kuopio, Eastern Finland:
Directory of papers: http://www.uku.fi/wwwdata/julkaisutoiminta/laitoksittain/ymptiet.html
LANDFILL COVER: The EPA allows the use of toxic incinerator ash as daily landfill cover, instead of soil, as the public was originally told.
LANDFILL DETECTION: Old, grown-over landfills can be identified by using GRP (Ground Penetrating Radar) or by reviewing county or state aerial photographs that often go back to the 1960's.
LEAKAGE DETECTION COMPANIES:
REGULATIONS & EPA SOLID WASTE LINKS:
NOTE: When looking for information on local recycling and waste disposal, call your local municipal government. In some cases, the county (or parish) will be your starting point. For state and federal information on environmental issues, including solid waste, visit the following webpage - EPA Regions & State Environmental Departments
LANDFILL LOCATIONS: Use TerraServer to locate Areas of Interest from Satellite Photos!
TULLYTOWN LANDFILL (terraced features, northeast of center) On the Delaware River, Tullytown, Bucks County, PA. View this area on Terra Server.