State regulators are proposing new rules for some types of landfills to try to limit their numbers. The rules would apply to unknown numbers of largely unregulated "inert-waste" landfills.
However, some who own the dumps worry about the regulations’ unintended consequences.
Inert landfills accept trash items like yard debris, concrete, asphalt, bricks and rock. Rome and Floyd County operate one that takes about 300 tons of trash a year. Officials there said they’re likely to see a lot more waste if the rules go through because other facilities likely will close. And they expect to be forced to increase fees for dumping.
"We do meet the buffer requirement but we do not have the monitoring wells and certainly have not budgeted for 30 years of post-closure,” said Jamie McCord, Rome’s public works director. “It would be a pretty drastic expense for us to do that.”
The proposed rules would require a 200-foot buffer between the landfill and buildings or the property line. Owners would have to monitor for methane gas buildup and take care of the landfill for 30 years after it closes, among other things.
The state Environmental Protection Division knows of 1,100 of these sites that should still be operating (or have failed to notify EPD that they’ve closed), but it only gets the required quarterly reports from about 100.
The idea behind the new regulations is to better control the sites by encouraging some to shut down, said Jeff Cown, manager of EPD’s solid waste program.
“This proposed rule amendment gives them an incentive to close,” he said. “If they close before these requirements hit, they can close under the current criteria, which means they just put two feet of soil over it, grass it, and notice it on the property deed.”
Cown said fewer landfills means EPD can be sure they’re not polluting groundwater or contaminating the environment. And the new rules will help officials figure out exactly how many of the inert-waste landfills exist in Georgia.
Currently, permits are automatically granted to this type of landfill as long as the owner meets all the state requirements and files the proper notices with EPD. The division has more than 2,500 such notifications on file and Cown said there are likely many more illegal dumping sites.
EPD is taking comments about the new requirements through June 21.