Georgia Environmental Protection Division Proposes Amendments To Increase Regulation of Inert Waste Landfills

The Georgia EPD recently proposed amendments to the state’s solid waste management regulations governing permits for inert waste landfills.  The proposed amendments will now require new inert waste landfills to obtain a comprehensive solid waste handling permit to operate.  The amendments also set forth design and operational standards which must be met before an inert waste landfill is approved and a permit issued for construction and operation.

Inert waste is classified as soil, concrete, cured asphalt, rock, bricks, yard trimmings and debris from land clearing operations.  Under the current Georgia Solid Waste Management Rules, inert waste landfills enjoyed permit-by-rule status, available to any owner who submitted notification to the EPD and complied with a relatively basic set of rules.  Since 1989, the approximately 2,500 inert waste landfills for which permit-by-rule notifications have been submitted to EPD have received little to no oversight.  Proper documentation of closure has been submitted for only 225 of the State’s inert waste landfills, leaving open the possibility that a host of these landfills were abandoned without notice to the EPD or those nearby.  Additionally, routine lack of compliance with quarterly reporting rules has given rise to the likelihood of a host of closed landfills for which no closure notice has been submitted, or operating landfills which may be receiving improper wastes, feature inadequate pollution safeguards, or which fail to provide adequate deed notices to unsuspecting landowners or potential purchasers of nearby property.  The EPD has identified several potential hazards posed by the current regulatory regime for inert waste landfills, including fires, groundwater and surface water contamination, and harm resulting from the buildup of methane gas.

The EPD’s proposed amendments seek to address these concerns by proposing three new amendments to Chapter 391-3-4 of Georgia’s Solid Waste Management Rules.  The first, proposed rule 391-3-4-.06(3), is to be amended to require that all new proposed inert waste landfills obtain a comprehensive solid waste handling permit to operate, as opposed to the previous and the far less demanding permit-by-rule notification standard.  The proposed rule provides for either an 18 month transition period for existing inert waste landfills to bring their operations and papers into compliance with the new requirements, or allows current inert waste landfills to close under the current permit by rule conditions.  The second proposed rule, 391-3-4-.07(4), is an entirely new rule providing for design and operational standards that must be met before a solid waste handling permit will be issued for an inert waste landfill.  This proposed rule calls for design of all inert landfill facilities to be prepared by a registered professional engineer who must prepare a design meeting several enumerated standards.  The final rule amendment is a renumbering of a previous solid waste rule with no substantive revisions. 

The proposed amendments for inert waste landfills are intended to bring requirements for design, operation, reporting and closure to the levels currently in place for construction/demolition waste landfills in Georgia, which feature requirements for a 200 foot buffer zone, monitoring for methane gas levels, and financial assurance for closure and post-closure landfill conditions.  With its increased regulatory oversight of a largely ignored classification of landfill, the EPD’s proposed amendments to Georgia’s Solid Waste Management Rules will significantly increase the costs associated with operating current and future inert waste landfills.

 The EPD will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments on June 7, 2012. For more information, please contact Stephen E. O’Day or Christopher J. Bowers.

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