A FEDERAL RULE IS allowing landfill operators to test certain innovative municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal technologies, such as bioreactors and phytocovers. In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) Permits for MSW Landfills rule and published it in the Federal Register. Following a public comment period, which ends April 21, EPA-approved states will be able to issue permits to facilities that want to deviate from Subtitle D disposal requirements, so long as they continue to protect human health and the environment.
The RD&D permits will provide flexibility to state environmental directors to “provide variances for run-on control systems; liquid restrictions; and final cover permeability for closure and post-closure care,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based EPA.
“It's actually a pretty good rule and will allow us to do research … to prove that bioreactor landfills either work or don't work the way we think they should,” says Edward Repa, director of environmental programs for the Alexandria, Va.-based Environmental Research and Education Foundation. “This allows more leeway for those looking to operate something other than dry tomb landfills.”
Other highlights of the RD&D permit rule, according to Long Beach, Calif.-based SCS Engineers, include:
No restrictions on facility size;
Three-year initial permit duration, with up to three, three-year renewals for a total of 12 years;
No variance to post-closure care requirements;
May require additional financial assurance; and
Bulk liquids may be added to landfills constructed with approved alternative liner designs and leachate collection systems with certain specifications.
According to Bob Gardner, senior vice president for SCS' solid waste division, the waste industry could face challenges in applying RD&D permits. “Some states already have some RD&D rules, but those need to be modified to be consistent with this [federal] rule, and the EPA has to approve them,” he says. A second challenge will be developing the permit package. A permit application will need to be developed, detailing appropriate monitoring scenarios and parameters to provide necessary safeguards to protect the environment, he adds.
Nevertheless, the RD&D rule “will have significance relative to expanding and furthering landfill [practices] to go beyond the dry tomb concept, allowing innovative technologies to be tested,” Gardner continues. “Landfill capacity is critical. We're trying to maximize capacity through bioreactors and landfill mass stabilization so that, long-term, [landfills] become less of an environmental liability.”
According to John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America, the EPA has done an “excellent” job working within its statutory authorities to allow innovation.
For information on the rule or to provide public comments, visit www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/mswlficr/index.htm.
Whom the RD &D Rule Affects:
Federal government — Agencies procuring waste services;
State government — Regulatory agencies and agencies operating landfills; and Industry, municipalities and
Tribal government — owners or operators of MSW landfills.