LANDFILLS: Setting a New Standard

It's not every day that a landfill becomes ISO 14001-certified. So the fact that the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Dunmore, Pa., transformed itself from an unlined “dump” into the country's first ISO 14001-certified landfill is an accomplishment the site's owners are quite proud of.

Keystone's current owners purchased the landfill in the late 1980s, recognizing the facility needed a lot of attention. Initially, the owners worked toward complying with the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations. But because operators were environmentally conscious and encouraged by Pennsylvania's Department of Protection (DEP) to improve site conditions, they decided to seek ISO 14001 certification in 2001.

ISO standards were developed by the International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, to ensure that various technical specifications are consistently used worldwide. ISO 14001 is part of the organization's Environmental Management System (EMS) and addresses a structured approach to improving environmental management, according to the group.

To help the landfill become ISO certified, Keystone's owners hired Gannett Fleming, Lancaster, Pa., to implement new policies and train employees. This helped to determine that controls to minimize wastewater odors and dust needed improvement. A program to manage the landfill's environmental performance then was implemented.

To control dust, the company made equipment purchases — three large “water buffaloes” — to continuously wash down roads and minimize dust. The landfill also is experimenting with various chemicals at the wastewater treatment plant to control odors. Specifically, Keystone's owners want to find a chemical that reduces odors yet is environmentally safe.

According to Keystone employees, working toward certification helped to create a structure that improved communication. Eventually, employees were asked to develop and implement new procedures, which allowed them to take pride in their work.

“[The employees] took ownership and ran with it,” says Bernie Rakauskas, Keystone's compliance manager. “That's given us a big success and a big move forward.”

Another challenge Keystone's staff overcame was completing detailed research and paperwork, and learning what local and federal regulations applied to the facility.

“Federal regulations generate all the language in your permit,” Rakauskas says. Consequently, “you have to know what all the regulations are [and] how they affect you. The process is very tedious, and it's ongoing.”

To become certified, landfills can expect to spend $50,000 to $90,000, Rakauskas says. So landfills owners should prepare for the costs, regardless of the project size. Nevertheless, for Keystone, the benefits outweighed the costs, he notes, because the landfill has kept ahead of regulations.

Keystone's managers continue to seek ideas for other improvements. But having completed its first year following certification, Rakauskas says employees already have the tools and structure in place to move forward.