Landfill Reuse Rises As Space Becomes Scarce

When Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D regulations were proposed in 1988, the U.S. Environmental Pro-tection Agency (EPA) estimated that 6,000 landfills would be affected. Since then, 2,000 landfills have been closed. As compliance or ca-pacity issues close landfills across the country, landfill reclamation is on the rise and can often turn a po-tential liability into a community asset.

Traditionally, rural areas have played host to many landfills. As these areas became more densely populated, available land for development became more difficult to find. Now, communities that need recreational areas can use closed landfills for open space.

Recreational space in urban areas has always been scarce. Ur-ban landfill conversions are especially attractive due to intense pressure for land uses and, in some cases, available capping materials form large excavation and construction projects. By linking a landfill reclamation project with an infrastructure-related ex-cavation project - such as a new subway or tunnel system - both projects benefit.

Landfill reuse allows a community that financially supports groundwater monitoring and landfill closure to get something in re-turn. Dozens of landfills have been successfully converted into parks, golf courses and nature preserves. For example, a closed landfill in Milwaukee is now a popular ski slope. Another closed landfill in California has been turned into an amphitheater.

The 50-acre Danehy Park in Cambridge, Mass., was created from a municipal landfill that was closed in the early 1970s (see chart). Settle-ment, combustible gas migration and generation, landfill cover thickness, air and ground water quality, stormwater control and revegetation were the main elements park designers had to consider for the project. The award-winning project created a park with three softball and four soccer fields, more than 2.5 miles of jogging paths, wildflower slopes, an artificial wetland for stormwater retention and more than 800 trees. Glassphalt, a combination of recycled glass and as-phalt, was made to pave a half-mile pathway.

Landfill reclamation projects can offset some of the costs associated with the closing of an old landfill, and even help turn a profit. An-other landfill in Massachusetts has been converted into a profit-making venture. The town of Marl-borough, Mass., earned $400,000 when it signed a 10-year lease that will turn its dump into a driving range, which will be fully constructed and operated by a private company.

Technological advancements in landfill closure and monitoring also are contributing to the viability of landfill reclamation: Ensuring public health and safety is a priority in these projects. The more environmentally sound the landfill closure and monitoring process becomes - coupled with the long-term success of past and current landfill reclamation projects - the more opportunities will exist for land reuse. In fact, permitting agencies are en-couraging the inclusion of reuse strategies as part of the permitting process for many new landfills.