Post-Closure Care of Landfills

Nearly a decade ago, the Geosynthetic Institute published results of its first survey on Regulatory Status of Post-Closure Care of MSW Landfills in the United States. That publication was GSI White Paper #17. Thirty-states responded to the first survey.

In the years since, GSI members and affiliated stakeholders in geosynthetics and waste management have requested a new survey be issued, including with some updates to the type of post-closure information collected. GSI has responded, and the result is GSI White Paper #42 (PDF).

This time around, 39 states responded.


In the White Paper’s comments section, authors Dr. Robert Koerner and Jamie Koerner lay out one of the unique challenges of post-closure care programs. They write:

Since the inception of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on landfills beginning in 1982 [first for Subtitle “C” on hazardous (aka, industrial) wastes then for Subtitle “D” on nonhazardous (aka, municipal) wastes], the federal EPA agency has remained relatively inactive. The lack of change within the federal EPA regulations is mainly due to the permitting process which was transferred to the individual states where the landfill is located. … While some states are very pro-active in updating and revising their regulations, others rely completely on the original federal regulations. Key in this regard, and the basic reason for this survey, is that the federal regulations only address post-closure care of completed landfills for a period of 30 years.

Might the federal EPA adopt guidance beyond 30 years? That debate is in process.

SEE ALSO: GSI White Paper 41 – Sustainability and Geosynthetics

Regardless of whether future updates might address longer-term care, state environmental agencies certainly seem interested in a federal update. More than 80% of the respondents indicated an interest in qualitative and/or quantitative updates to the federal program. That call was underscored in that only 15% of the responding states acknowledged that they had any sort of state closure program updates in development.

Geosynthetics for Waste Ash Landfill Closure - Agru

Importantly, the responding states represent the great variety of closure care responsibilities among the states. Seven of the responding states had five or fewer landfills in post-closure. Four states had more than 100 landfills that qualified!

GSI’s white paper also gathered useful data on specific state rules for post-closure (e.g., funding, time length, waste stabilization rules). Geosynthetica recommends readers download the full document, which includes a breakdown of the results and states involved.

MORE GSI WHITE PAPERS: #40 – Geosynthetics and Pavement Design Methods

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