Closing a landfill is one thing; finding a new purpose for it, however, is quite another. Through its Return to Use Initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is helping 19 Superfund sites, including four former landfill sites, in 13 states overcome their individual obstacles and become a viable part of the community again.
EPA began the initiative in 2004, selecting 11 Superfund sites that had been cleaned up but remained unused, often because of concerns from the community about contamination. The agency has used those experiences to continue improving the initiative and in March announced this year's sites.
The sites include the locations of former manufacturing facilities and well fields, as well as landfills in Pensacola and Seffner, Fla.; Waukegan, Ill.; and Newlin and West Bradford Townships, Pa.; and a dump site in Rose Township, Mich. While negotiations about how some of the sites will be used are still ongoing, the former Beulah Landfill in Pensacola — now a model airplane flying field — is one example of a successful project.
After being closed in 1984, and placed on the National Priorities List in 1990, the landfill was capped and other public-protection measures were taken. EPA has helped bring new life to the area by working with local officials and the Academy of Model Aeronautics to make sure the airplane park wouldn't disturb the landfill cover and to assure the public that the site was safe.
The Return to Use projects are part of EPA's larger Land Revitalization Initiative, which encourages reuse of cleaned up sites by promoting coordination across different programs and offices.