Solid waste landfills are federally regulated under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). In the past, landfill regulation was left to the discretion of the individual states. The Solid Waste Disposal and Facility Criteria, promulgated by the U.S. EPA, specify how MSW landfills are to be designed, constructed, operated, and closed and were implemented in 1993 and 1994. The criteria were developed to ensure that municipal landfills do not endanger human health and are based on the assumption that municipal landfills receive household hazardous waste and hazardous waste from small generators. States are required to adopt regulations at least as strict as the EPA criteria. Although some states had some acceptable regulations in place, many did not. The EPA is currently considering criteria for non-hazardous industrial waste landfills.
In most states, landfills constructed under the new regulations are more expensive to construct and operate than past landfills because of requirements concerning daily cover, liners, leachate collection, gas collection, monitoring, hazardous waste exclusion, closure and postclosure requirements, and financial assurances (to cover anticipated closure and postclosure costs). Some of the major aspects of the landfill criteria are briefly described below next (40 CFR Parts 257-258).
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