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Fact Sheet September 1995

Introduction

A fact sheet distributed in July 1995 explained that EPA is looking into demolishing buildings at the Avtex Fibers Site and placing the resulting debris into a landfill. This landfill would be located in a basin at the site that currently is used to hold fly ash from the former site power plant. EPA currently is evaluating different landfilling options to determine their applicability at this site.

The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide community members with general information on landfill containment and how it is used at sites as a response to hazardous waste contamination. The fact sheet reviews various features of landfills including a definition of this technology and an explanation of its components, applicability, limitations, and technological status.

Landfill Description

Landfill containment systems are final disposal units for solid and hazardous wastes. A typical landfill includes barriers that surround the waste and prevent contaminants from moving into surrounding soil and water.

Specifically, a liner surrounds the waste to prevent the release of leachate, water that collects contaminants as it trickles through soil. The design for the liner system depends on the type of waste to be contained by the system and on the climate of the area where the landfill will be located. In addition to the liner, which is built underneath and around the sides of the waste, a cover is constructed on top of the landfill. Landfill covers reduce water entry, control gas and odor emissions, and provide a stable surface over waste.

Lastly, landfill containment usually includes many management and monitoring systems. Management systems control water and gas emissions, while monitoring systems work to test the effectiveness of the landfill and ensure proper maintenance of its structure. Examples of these components are listed in the next section which describes specific elements of a landfill.

Landfill Applicability

Landfill containment systems are useful at Superfund sites where contamination or wastes must be isolated at their original location. Such measures reduce possible harm to the public and environment and minimize the movement of contamination. Barriers placed below the soil's surface, like the liner, serve a number of functions, including isolating wastes from the environment and possibly allowing the area above the landfill to be used for an alternative purpose.

Landfills often are used at sites where the volume of the waste makes treatment impractical or where waste poses a relatively low long-term threat.

Landfill Limitations

Although landfill containment has been effective at many hazardous waste sites, the technology does have limitations. First, the materials used in the construction of a landfill could be eroded over time by the contamination inside the landfill. The landfill materials and the contaminants that will be stored in the landfill should be compatible to ensure successful containment.

Additionally, once a containment system is constructed and operating, it is often difficult to inspect all components and precisely assess its overall effectiveness. As a result, long-term ground water monitoring programs are an important component of these systems. Monitoring ensures that contaminants do not move outside the landfill and indicates that the landfill is doing its job.

Components of Landfills

See the diagram on the next page for an illustration of many of these components.

Technology Status

The construction and installation of landfill containment systems are considered well- established technologies. Many firms have experience in constructing landfills. Similarly, there are several manufacturers that produce the materials that are used in these systems.

For More Information

If you have any questions or comments about landfill containment systems or other EPA actions at the Avtex Fibers Site, contact either of the following EPA representatives:

Remedial Project Manager
Bonnie Gross
215-814-3229
gross.bonnie@epa.gov

Community Involvement Coordinator
Richard Kuhn
215-814-3063
kuhn.richard@epa.gov

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