Special Report: Landfills
Where Possible, Operators Pushing for Landfill Expansions

Where Possible, Operators Pushing for Landfill Expansions

Faced with dwindling capacity, landfill operations across the U.S. have mounted successful efforts to expand their sites.

Just this month, officials with the town of Bourne, Mass., announced their intensions to expand the current landfill by 12 acres. Two other landfills nearby are scheduled to close soon, and the Bourne landfill is currently estimated to last only until 2024.

Officials in Will County, Ill., also approved a 150-acre expansion of the Waste Management of Illinois landfill near Elwood in December. The 200-acre landfill will nearly double in size and add 10 years to its capacity, currently estimated to reach capacity in 2021.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this month approved a permit for the expansion of the Mahoning Landfill located in New Springfield, Ohio. The permit allows the landfill to expand its disposal area by 51.6 acres, increasing landfill capacity to 24.11 million cubic yards.

Why are operators choosing to seek permits for expansion? Waste360 recently sat down with Jim Dowland, vice president of disposal operations for Waste Management, based in Houston to get some insight into this trend.

Waste360: There seems to be a trend toward landfill expansions rather than new sites. Why is that?

Jim Dowland: Permitting of expansions typically face less land use opposition than that of greenfield sites. More importantly, expansions are typically efficient in the context of infrastructure such as roads, waste water treatment, scale facilities, landfill gas recovery and beneficial reuse features, and airspace capacity. 

Waste360: How many expansions has Waste Management experienced in the past year or so?

Jim Dowland: At any given time, Waste Management typically has 20-plus expansion projects of varying sizes across the United States and Canada. While few large expansions in number, some of our expansions may yield in excess of 15 million cubic yards of airspace.

Waste360: What are the regulations for expansion vs. the difficulties in getting permits for new sites?

Jim Dowland: Expansions face all the same environmental and local land use rules and regulations that new sites face.

Waste360: How tall and wide can a landfill be in the U.S.?

Jim Dowland: Landfill dimensions are generally a function of the limitations placed on the design by environmental and land use permitting standards in place for landfill siting.

Waste360: How does the treatment of leachate differ in larger landfills?

Jim Dowland: Except in arid areas, larger landfills typically generate larger amounts of leachate. The treatment processes are the same for a gallon of a certain type of leachate. As daily volumes increase, the necessary size of conveyance features and treatment works will vary.

Waste360: How do these larger landfills affect its collection pipes?

Jim Dowland: Leachate conveyance features are designed to adequately and efficiently collect leachate with hydraulic, chemical compatibility, and strength considerations.

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