In 2014 there were 3,779 hazardous waste facilities in the U.S. that needed to take “corrective action” – i.e. investigate, plan and implement a procedure to clean up contamination. And although only one type of landfill is denoted as “hazardous waste,” all landfills contain toxic chemicals that threaten the air, water and the public’s health. All landfills will eventually fail, polluting the environment and placing people at risk.
Municipal Solid Waste landfills contain many kinds of toxic waste including electronics which, especially when crushed, leak out their poisonous components of lead, mercury and cadmium. Construction and Demolition landfills emit hydrogen sulfide and store paint, lacquers, and wood preservatives that contain harmful chemicals like arsenic. Industrial landfills are home to heavy metals and organic compounds like pesticides and PCBs, which can pollute surface water.
Even a landfill that complies with every EPA law and regulation will, by the nature of its design, emit harmful gases and leachate into the water, soil and air. As the waste decomposes over many years, so do the liners and caps meant to contain them. Like liners and leachate collection systems, measures to contain gas emissions are moderately successful at best: Today’s waste will contribute to global climate change and air pollution for many years into the future.
Each new truckload of garbage dumped into a landfill leads to an unknown amount of environmental pollution, expensive remediation costs and health threats. To bring a halt to this garbage explosion, we must work toward zero waste: no landfills, no incinerators, just a holistic approach to the lifecycle of every item.
If your community is willing to fight for your right to clean air and water, CHEJ can help you succeed in opposing a proposed landfill or shutting down an existing landfill. It will not be quick or easy, and it requires a great deal of planning and organization, but we believe in your ability to stop landfills and protect the health of yourself, your family and your neighbors.