Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

You may be aware that the Certification and Licensing Branch is responsible for the certification of solid waste landfill operators.  However, you may not be aware of the complexities associated with these operators’ job.  Much like wastewater and drinking water operators, solid waste operators must comply with environmental regulations and make important decisions daily to ensure that Kentucky’s solid waste is properly managed without harming our environment. The following information provides some interesting facts about landfill operation. How many were you aware of?

Municipal solid waste landfills (MSWLFs) primarily receive household waste. However, they can also receive nonhazardous sludge, industrial solid waste, and construction and demolition debris. These landfills must comply with the federal regulations in 40 CFR Part 258 (Subtitle D of RCRA) and/or equivalent state regulations.

MSWLF standards include location restrictions to ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas away from faults, wetlands, flood plains or other restricted areas. They are required to have composite liners, which include a flexible membrane (geomembrane) overlaying a compacted or synthetic clay liner covering the bottom and sides of the landfill. The purpose of the liner is to protect groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate releases. MSWLFs are also required to have leachate collection and removal systems, which sit on top of the composite liner and remove leachate from the landfill for treatment and disposal.

Operating practices include compacting and covering waste daily with at least six inches of soil or other approved materials to help reduce odor; control litter, insects and rodents; and protect public health. Another operational requirement is testing groundwater wells to determine whether waste constituents have escaped from the landfill.

There are also closure and post-closure care requirements, which include covering landfills and providing long-term care of closed landfills. Also included are corrective action provisions, which control and clean up landfill releases, as well as achieving groundwater protection standards. Financial assurance is also required to provide funding for environmental protection during and after landfill closure (i.e., closure and post-closure care).

Some materials may be banned from disposal in municipal solid waste landfills, including chemicals, oils and lead acid batteries. These products, if mishandled, can be dangerous to your health and the environment.

More information about municipal solid waste landfills may be found at: http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/landfill.htm.

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