Time To Comment: EPA To Reopen Landfill Rules

Last November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., announced in the Federal Register that it would be conducting a mandated review of the Solid Waste Disposal Facility Criteria, which originally was issued on Oct. 9, 1991. The criteria set minimum standards for all U.S. municipal solid waste landfills in areas such as location, design, operation, and closure and post-closure care.

Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires federal agencies to conduct periodic reviews, commonly called 610 Reviews, of regulations that have significant economic impact on small businesses, organizations and governmental jurisdictions. The review must be conducted by a rule's 10th anniversary.

All aspects of the criteria, including those applicable to large landfills, are open for comment. However, EPA specifically is seeking comments on:

* The continued need for the municipal solid waste landfill criteria;

* The nature of comments received from the public since the rule was issued; and

* The extent to which the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other federal, state or local rules.

Feedback on the criteria is due to EPA by Feb. 29, 2000. Responses must include an original and two copies of the comments referencing docket number F-1999-MLFN-FFFFF and be sent to: RCRA Docket Information Center, Office of Solid Waste (5305G), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters, 401 M St., SW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Comments also may be submitted in an ASCII file, referencing the same docket number, to [email protected]

Additional information about the 610 Review can be obtained from the agency's website, www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/regflexa.htm

In addition to the 610 Review, EPA plans to publish a request for information in February 2000 on landfills recirculating leachate on state-approved, alternative liners and bioreactor projects.

The information request will seek data on leachate quality with and without leachate recirculation, and the change in leachate quality over time. The request also will cover liner performance, and design and operation for leachate recirculation and bioreactor landfills.

If sufficient data are presented, the federal municipal solid waste landfill criteria could be modified to allow leachate recirculation on state-approved, alternative liners and the liquids restriction may be removed.

This could benefit the waste industry in several ways. First, valuable air space would be recovered because of accelerated waste degradation. Based on data from some bioreactor studies, as much as a third more waste could be contained in the same air space.

Second, permitting leachate recirculation could reduce an operator's costs for leachate management. During the life of a facility, an operator may save millions of dollars by treating leachate through recirculation.

Third, post-closure care costs could decline because the waste would rapidly stabilize. Once the waste has stabilized, cap settlement will decrease resulting in less maintenance at the site.

Finally, eliminating the liquid restrictions would allow disposal of liquid waste streams. This would allow operators to accept new waste streams for a fee, which would provide them with additional revenue.