FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Bonnie Hauser, President
Orange County Voice, bonnie@OrangeCountyVoice.org, 919 732-9316
Michael M Hughes, P.E. Vice-President
Orange County Voice , mike@OrangeCountyVoice.org
U.S. EPA Report Finds Uncontrolled Landfill Emissions
Higher Than Industry Claims
Study conducted at three southeastern U.S. sites found landfills to emit nine times more harmful mercury emissions than previously estimated
Orange County, NC - April 18, 2012 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development based at Research Triangle Park has issued a new report titled Quantifying Methane Abatement Efficiency at Three Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. The results show that previous industry reports of uncontrolled landfill greenhouse gas emissions are significantly understated. The report also confirmed that landfill gas includes a wide variety of air toxics, including carcinogens and levels of mercury up to nine times higher than previous estimates. Federal regulations require no regular monitoring of air toxics at landfills.
The EPA report studied landfills with installed gas collection systems that had no enforcement actions and all were meeting applicable Clean Air Act regulations, including new source performance standards. Despite this, emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane were found to be up to four times higher than industry estimates. Methane is a critical contributor to global climate change, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, 25 times more potent than CO2, and the focus of a new global initiative announced by the U.S. State Department, U.S. EPA, the United Nations Environment Programme, and foreign governments.
The EPA report focused on landfills with collection systems in place and operating; however, nearly thirty percent of the municipal solid waste deposited in landfills in the U.S. goes to sites without any gas collection, resulting in the uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases and toxic emissions including mercury and carcinogens such as benzene, trichloroethene and vinyl chloride. Even for those landfills that do collect gas, current regulations allow up to five years before systems need to be installed and allow an operator to turn off gas collection systems in as little as 15 years.
The full report can be found on the U.S. EPA website at: http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/pubs/600r12003/600r12003.html .
Significant conclusions of the report are:
- For landfills/landfill sections with final cover/caps as proscribed by USEPA regulation, the report found "the data collected does not support [emphasis added] the use of [methane] collection efficiency values of 90% or greater as has been published in other studies."
- In contrast, the report found that roughly 20% of the methane was emitted from landfills with final caps, four times the 5% average emission rate claimed in a landfill industry position paper.
- The landfill sites studied with temporary covers showed that methane capture ranged from 40-80% with the average being 62%, versus industry claims of 75%.
- Landfilled waste can decompose and begin generating uncontrolled emissions of methane gas in half the time as previously assumed - in a matter of a few months.
- Measurements of uncontrolled toxic mercury emissions were 3 - 9 times greater than estimated in an earlier 2008 EPA landfill study.
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"The EPA report affirms long held citizen concerns about present and future threats to air quality and to the health of citizens of communities where landfills are located," said Bonnie Hauser, President of Orange County Voice. "Orange County Voice is a citizen's action group advocating, among other things, more sustainable and less environmentally impactful solid waste management alternatives to landfill disposal of waste."
"The dangers of fugitive landfill air emissions cited in the EPA report are in addition to known threats to drinking water posed by breaches of landfill liners and the nuisances and health threats from uncontrolled emissions from landfill fires, vermin and odors," adds Michael M. Hughes, P.E., also of Orange County Voice. "Devaluation of the landfill property and the surrounding real estate is rarely assessed or valued. Nor is the ongoing taxpayer burden of mandated perpetual landfill monitoring and remediation cost adequately taken into account."
Hughes continues, "It is hard to put a price on reduced quality of life that comes from condemning hundreds of acres of productive rural land to a permanent brownfield waste entrapment site. In addition, the practice of transporting waste by truck and train, sometimes hundreds of miles, adds to the pollution burden both locally and regionally."
"Hopefully this report will help local officials and regulators realize the real risks and impacts of landfills to our air, water, and quality of life, and force the effort to find more sustainable, less impactful waste management alternatives to landfills that are more responsible, responsive and socially just," Hauser concluded.
About Orange County Voice
Orange County Voice (OCV) is a community organization serving rural Orange County. OCV's mission is to educate and build awareness about rural communities, and to protect farmland, natural resources and rural communities from random sprawl and unwanted municipal development.
For more information, visit http://www.orangecountyvoice.org.