Magazine article Risk Management

Meeting Financial Requirements for Landfills

Magazine article Risk Management

Meeting Financial Requirements for Landfills

Article excerpt

In 1988, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study confirmed that the United States was in the midst of a municipal solid waste disposal crisis. By 1990, the nation generated nearly 195 million tons of municipal solid waste, with the EPA estimating that this amount would increase to 220 million tons by the year 2000. This growing volume of waste is coupled with steadily decreasing availability of disposal capacity In 1970, for example, estimates were that there were nearly, 18,000 landfills in the United States, while a 1986 EPA estimate put the number of operating landfills at 6,000.

Consequently, growing public concern over the safe operation of landfills led the United States government to enact legislation requiring municipal solid waste landfill (MSWLF) owners and operators to implement programs for the safe operation, closure and post-closure care of MSWLFs. Pursuant to the legislation embodied in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 and the Clean Water Act, the EPA issued final regulations in October 1991, under Subtitle D of RCRA to provide a framework for federal, state and local government cooperation in controlling the management of non-hazardous solid waste for sanitary landfills.

These regulations appear in 40 CFR Part 258 of RCRA, and apply to landfills that accept municipal solid waste, as differentiated from hazardous waste landfills that are covered by regulations under Subtitle C in Part 257.

The regulations include requirements that landfill owners and operators provide financial responsibility for their liability to close landfills, provide post-closure care and perform corrective action for known releases. Landfill owners and operators must provide assurance that the liability for the costs of fulfilling their responsibilities for closure of the landfill, postclosure care and corrective action have been provided. The regulations account for several allowable mechanisms, including trust funds, letters of credit, surety bonds, insurance and financial guarantees.

Currently, the federal regulations requiring financial responsibility will become effective as of April 1995, having recently been delayed one year. However, based on the final regulations that became effective in October 1991, which originally provided for implementation of the technical requirements in October 1993 and the financial responsibility requirements in April 1994, a number of states have implemented their plans for landfill management. These state regulations also require financial responsibility requirements to be met. Thus, MSWLF owners and operators should arrange for the provision of financial responsibility.

Waste Disposal Regulations

The existing federal regulations provide minimum national standards for protecting human health and the environment, and offering technical assistance to states for planning and developing their own environmentally sound waste management practices. The responsibility for implementation of the program, however, remains with the individual states. The cornerstone of the EPA strategy to address municipal solid waste management problems is "integrated waste management" where source reduction, recycling, combustion and landfilling work together to form an overall system, The EPA strategy is to establish three national goals for municipal solid waste management: increase source reduction and recycling; increase disposal capacity and improve secondary material markets; and improve the safety of solid waste management facilities. The regulations establish minimum federal criteria for MSWLFs, including:

* Location Restrictions, which are restrictions provided for landfills located near airports, flood plains, wetlands, fault areas, seismic impact zones and unstable areas.

* Facility Design, which requires landfills to comply with performance standards established by the regulations or by appropriate state authorities. …

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