Nonhazardous Waste:

State Management of Municipal Landfills and Landfill Expansions

RCED-89-165BR: Published: Jun 29, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about municipal landfills in the 50 states, focusing on the number of: (1) landfills included on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL) of hazardous waste sites posing serious health and environmental threats and the number of NPL landfills that sought state approval to expand operations; (2) landfills not on NPL but identified by states as requiring cleanup and the number of those that sought expansion approval; and (3) operating landfills not on NPL or identified by states as requiring cleanup and those that have sought expansion approval. GAO also examined the extent to which states considered citizens' views and owners' and operators' past records as part of the approval process.

GAO found that: (1) NPL cited 249 municipal landfills, 14 of which sought states' expansion approval during fiscal years (FY) 1987 and 1988; (2) 8 states have identified 116 non-NPL landfills requiring cleanup under their hazardous waste programs; (3) 12 of the 116 state-identified landfills sought expansion permits during FY 1987 and 1988; (4) 7,575 municipal landfills not on NPL or state-identified for cleanup were operating in 49 states as of October 1988; (5) 640 of those landfills in 42 states had applied for expansion during FY 1987 and 1988; (6) 46 states provided for public participation to consider citizens' views about landfill expansion; and (7) 43 states considered owners' and operators' past records as part of the approval process. GAO believes that new EPA-proposed minimum criteria for municipal landfill location, design, and operating safeguards could help to make landfills safer and reduce environmental threats.

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