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A landfill is a site for the disposal of wastes in a community. The use of landfills is the oldest form of waste management. Since the year 1992, Pennsylvania has been the largest importer of waste in the United States. In the year 2003, Pennsylvania received and accepted waste from twenty-eight states that also included Canada, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. The use of landfills has become an environmental problem not only for Pennsylvania but for the entire Continental United States. One of the biggest problems in Pennsylvania is in Elizabethtown.
The landfill site in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania is currently a fifteen-acre sandstone quarry. This quarry has been operating as an unlicensed landfill from the years of 1958 to 1973 and was accepting an unknown amount of waste from surrounding communities. However, in the year 1985, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) discovered VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are chemical components found in solvents and degreasers. Waste Management had arranged for the site to be covered with two feet of clay and six inches of topsoil in order to help prevent contamination from moving away from the site. They also included vents to avoid methane gas accumulation. All of these precautions were intended to help the community's health and well-being. There are an estimated 13,200 people who receive their drinking water from private and public wells within three miles from the landfill site.
The cleanup process included not only the vents to avoid methane gas accumulation, but also included a system to collect leachate, a sediment basin, and a drainage system. In the year 1990, the PRPs (potentially responsible party) had entered into a consent agreement with the EPA to work on studies to help determine the extent of contamination. However, it took nine years for the PRPs to agree to continue with the cleanup of the landfill site. The EPA selected different areas for the PRPs to focus on. Those areas included; capping and uncapping portions of the landfill, more studies on the surface and groundwater, and pumping and treating contaminated groundwater. Construction of the cap for the landfill began in 2002 and was completed in 2003. Also, the study of the groundwater was started in 2004 but wasn't completed, with results reported to the EPA until 2008.
In June of 2008, the EPA completed a Five-Year Review of the site, which helps to determine if the steps taken to remedy the damage of the site was effective. However, according to the EPA,
"The remedy of the Site could not be determined to be protective of human health and environmental because volatile organic compounds in the groundwater may represent a pathway for vapour intrusions into buildings." (Epa.gov).
So, in order to attempt to completely remedy the danger that is the landfill in Elizabethtown, PA, the EPA will be conducting a vapour intrusion study in 2010.
Many dangerous landfills, usually ones that are not modern in technology and age, have come to the attention of the EPA. The process used to remedy the situation in the Elizabethtown landfill is a process used most times by the EPA to ensure the safety of the people in the surrounding communities. However, their work is never done. In order to ensure that the communities local to the landfill stay safe, the EPA and PRPs must continue to conduct tests and experiments constantly.
Due to the encouraging and environmental strides by the EPA, modern landfills have become "well-engineered facilities that are located, designed, operated, and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations." (EPA.gov). Due to constant upkeep is done by the EPA, a modern landfill is designed to protect the environment and the citizens surrounding the landfill from contaminations. Another breakthrough contributed by the EPA is the ability to collect possible harmful gas emissions and convert them into energy. Which not only helps the landfill from contaminations, it also donates to our energy crisis.
In today's world, all municipal solid waste landfills must comply with federal regulations in order to keep the landfill safe. These regulations include location restrictions, composite liner requirements, leachate collection and removal services, operating practices, groundwater monitoring requirements, closure and post-closure care requirements, corrective action provisions, and finally financial assurance. All of the regulations are designed to ensure the proper care of these waste facilities and to avoid the harm of all living beings.
One of the more important regulations required of landfills is the location restriction. The location restriction reassures that the landfill is built away from restricted areas such as faults, wetlands, or flood plains. The landfills are required to be built in a suitable geological area to support the hazardous waste that is contributed to the landfill each day. Another extremely useful regulation required of landfills is the operating practices. The operating practices include covering and compacting the waste constantly in the landfill and covering it with soil. In doing this, it helps to reduce odour, control rodents, insects, and litter. This, in turn, protects the public health and well-being of the community.
All of these regulations have been put in place to help the general health and well-being of the people and animals in the community. If these regulations weren't in place, there would be contaminated drinking water, heavy pollution, odour, and pests that would affect our health. The EPA also established restrictions on some materials, and have banned them from municipal solid waste landfills. These materials are broken down into two different types of waste materials, household hazardous wastes and household appliances (known as white goods). Some of the materials included in these categories are paints, motor oils, cleaners, refrigerators, or window air conditioners. The products in these categories can be hazardous to your health if not handled properly. Also, the household appliances, or white goods, are dangerous due to their need to rely on ozone-depleting refrigerants (which can include ammonia, sulphur dioxide, or methane).
Many years ago, landfills could have or be disastrous. Most landfills contained toxins, contaminations, and poisons that were extremely dangerous to the health of the community. However, due to the efforts of the EPA and the government, that all has been changed. With the new regulations and restrictions, landfills are able to exist in our communities without having to be concerned with the everyday health of the people surrounding the landfill. Without the help of the EPA, the country would still be living in areas with contaminated air and water that would be hazardous to our health and environment.