WW: What services does Golder Associates provide to the waste in-dustry?
JLC: We provide site assessment, facility design and permitting services to solid waste facility owners and operators. Most of our experience is with insite characterization, site suitability assessment, environmental monitoring and design and permitting for landfills. There has been a significant increase in recent years in design and permitting for other municipal solid waste management systems such as transfer stations, recycling facilities and composting facilities.
WW: How will consulting engineering services in the solid waste industry develop over the next five years?
JLC: In the past, national and international consulting firms typically worked for large, private solid waste management companies and the smaller, regional consultants worked for counties and lo-cal cities.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Subtitle D regulations will continue to impact the solid waste industry. Prior to waste reduction, landfilling was almost the sole method of disposal. In the foreseeable future, solid waste consultants will continue to focus on the alternate methods to landfilling and the move to large, regional public waste authorities has made these groups viable clients for na-tional consulting firms.
WW: What are the major issues facing solid waste management today?
JLC: Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is not a landfill space crisis in the U.S. today. This is clearly evident in the sharp decrease in tipping fees over the last two years. However, there is a major transportation problem from the heavily populated urban centers moving their solid waste to ru-ral locations with large, regional landfills. This method raises several material handling, transportation and socio-economic issues that must be solved.
Also, the number of existing or recently filled, unlined landfills that must be properly closed presents a huge financial exposure, which is generally unappreciated. In virtually every case, the municipal owners of these facilities have little, if any, funds escrowed for closure costs, which could cost an estimated $20,000 to $50,000 per acre - not including costs to re-mediate contaminated groundwater. How landfill owners will meet this exposure will be a major issue over the next five years.
WW: Compare the evolution of solid wastes to other civil or environmental engineering professions.
JLC: The waste industry has undergone a similar evolution as the wastewater engineering field, offset by 10 years. The National Environmental Protection Act caused the wastewater industry to upgrade its treatment systems nationally and to improve the quality of our surface waters. Laws were passed, funds were allocated and large projects were designed and built. This was a finite program that employed a large number of engineers who eventually worked themselves out of jobs. The shift to groundwater quality, along with the emphasis on solid waste (hazardous and non hazardous), filled the void left by the decrease in wastewater revenues. Once a large number of lined landfills were designed and built, the same decrease in revenues occurred. The two cycles are similar and will be repeated in the contaminated site cleanup field.