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News Releases from Region 07

City of Iowa City, Iowa, and EPA Settle Clean Air Act Violations

Contact Information: 
David Bryan (bryan.david@epa.gov)

Environmental News


EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., June 27, 2016) - The City of Iowa City, Iowa, has reached an administrative civil settlement with EPA over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its sanitary landfill. The settlement includes an $8,225 civil penalty, a Supplemental Environmental Project estimated at $109,000, and other improvements estimated at $2 million to ensure continued compliance.

This enforcement action is part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative to cut hazardous air pollutants. One of the most common sources of these pollutants is municipal solid waste landfills. Landfill standards impose important controls on emissions of landfill gas, as well as monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements – all to help insure that landfill gas emissions are minimized.

A July 15, 2014, facility inspection and additional investigation by EPA Region 7 showed that Iowa City had failed to comply with certain requirements of the New Source Performance Standards for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. Specific violations noted in the inspection included failing to conduct appropriate monitoring and expand the gas collection well system when the wells had exceeded the standards for oxygen content, methane concentration and pressure; and failing to conduct proper surface emission monitoring and landfill cover integrity monitoring.

Under terms of this settlement filed by EPA in Lenexa, Kan., Iowa City has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $8,225. The city has also agreed to implement several other measures at a cost of almost $2 million to ensure its continued compliance with the landfill regulations and benefit the communities surrounding the landfill.

Iowa City will develop and implement detailed Standard Operating Procedures that its employees will follow in conducting monthly monitoring of the landfill’s gas collection wells. The city will allow an independent third party to complete an audit of the landfill’s gas collection system, and has agreed to implement corrective actions recommended by an auditor. The city will provide access to a web-based “electronic portal” so that EPA can easily check the landfill’s monitoring data. Iowa City will also provide timely notice to neighboring communities if it anticipates conditions at the landfill that might lead to off-site odors.

Additionally, Iowa City has agreed to spend more than $109,000 on a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) that has two related components. Iowa City will purchase and install four thermal cameras at the landfill. These cameras will monitor the surface and subsurface portions of the landfill site. If temperatures reach levels indicative of a potential landfill fire, the cameras will automatically trigger an early warning system to notify designated landfill staff and local emergency responders.

Iowa City will also create and implement a landfill fire risk management plan. This plan will provide training to landfill staff, the fire department, police department, and county Emergency Management Agency on emergency planning and coordination in the event of a landfill fire. Depending on the type of solid waste that is burning, a prolonged fire could lead to an increase in emissions of potentially hazardous pollutants, such as particulate matter, benzene, carbon monoxide and dioxins and furans. Not only will this project reduce the potential for a landfill fire, but it will also put procedures in place to respond rapidly and effectively if a fire should occur.

“This settlement is the result of cooperative and productive discussions with Iowa City,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Mark Hague. “As part of the settlement, the city will implement important, progressive measures that will minimize risks to the local community and improve public access to information about conditions at the site.”

Controlling these emissions is vital as those releases can cause, or contribute significantly to, air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. Landfill gas, which is created by the decomposition of organic materials in solid waste, consists primarily of methane and carbon dioxide as well as less than 1 percent of many different “nonmethane” organic gases. Adverse effects of landfill gas include ground-level ozone formation, cancer and noncancer health effects, fire hazard potential (caused by methane migration), and odor nuisance. Methane emissions are a significant source of greenhouse gases and reducing those releases is a key element of the Administration’s plan to address climate change.

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