Scientists and experts agree that climate change is a present-day threat to communities across the U.S., manifesting in both predictable and unpredictable ways. As detailed in the National Climate Assessment Vol. 4 (NCA4), coastal storms are increasing in strength and frequency, forest fires are becoming much larger and more destructive, annual precipitation is changing and increasing in variability, and widespread flooding is becoming more common both in the interior of the nation and along the coasts.
These changes present complex challenges to the waste management industry that must be addressed and planned for. For example, one challenge is an increasing frequency of large-scale weather events and natural disasters, which are creating more debris that must be managed and which affects the characteristics of landfilled waste. Landfill design needs to incorporate precipitation changes and increased threats due to weather variability, flooding, and sea-level rise. Precipitation changes affect gas generation rates and require a diligent reaction to maintain effective gas collection. Because of weather pattern changes, risks of cover material erosion and swales have increased for landfills in both wet and dry climates, which may require stronger natural caps or the use of emerging technologies for alternate cover. Additionally, landfills are affected by an increase in the variability of precipitation and rapid changes between weather extremes.
It is clear that waste management facilities must adapt to these changes in addition to scenario building for pandemics to maintain effective operations. Adaptations available include making changes to landfill design and planning, such as incorporating precipitation changes into the modeling of leachate and gas generation or increasing the distance between the bottom liner and groundwater.
Systems should be regularly evaluated and areas needing repairs should be corrected quickly and diligently. Gas generation models should be updated regularly and collection systems need to be expanded or adjusted to account for precipitation increases or decreases.
More frequent and intense storms are creating challenges for cover material management, liquids management, and maintaining slope stability. Facilities should implement innovative uses of both existing technology and new or emerging technologies.
Communities with waste management facilities should include waste management infrastructure in emergency management plans, including maintaining landfills and collections operations and using landfills as both temporary debris storage and as an option for final disposal.
Since climate change effects vary by region and locale, many facilities are developing a specific plan for adaptation and management. To reduce the inevitable costs of adaptation and maintain responsiveness to weather changes, a reactive approach is being abandoned in favor of a proactive approach.
About the Author: Jacob Shepherd is a Senior Project Professional specializing in air compliance and reporting within EPA Region III. He is experienced in environmental engineering, air compliance, renewable energy, landfill and landfill gas engineering, and environmental services throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and is a licensed P.E. in Virginia.
Resources and Recovery
Get started with these resources and recovery success studies; click to read, download, or share each:
Planning for Natural Disaster Debris – help for communities to develop or revise a disaster debris management plan. Many aspects of disaster debris planning can be relevant to communities demolishing abandoned residential buildings and remediating properties.
Guidance about Planning for Natural Disaster Debris – much of the construction or demolition waste can be recovered and recycled. SCS Engineers designs and builds these facilities so we can help locate the nearest C&D debris recyclers as part of your plan.
Planning Financial Response and Recovery – the SCS Management Services™ team offers services to support financial planning and to quickly access budget and operational financial impacts. Eliminate concerns about the upcoming fiscal year expectations and anticipated medium-term impacts of pandemics and natural hazards on local government operations and revenue streams. Address issues such as:
California leads the way in the United States with a GHG MRP and C&T program that continues to grow and link with other jurisdictions. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Market Readiness Proposal initially started with basic facility reporting and has grown and adopted to include multiple non-facility specific sectors of the economy, as dictated by the growing initiatives and programs that CARB joins or creates. However, as the program applicability may change, the basics tenants of MRP stay the same with reporting and verification at the center of the program.
By having CARB’s C&T Program as a separate program, entities have to navigate if they have a compliance obligation and how they will meet that obligation in addition to complying with reporting requirements. Entities can reduce their emissions by switching to biomass-derived fuels or meeting their compliance obligation by using CARB-provided allowances or purchasing allowances and/or compliance offset credits.
As CARB’s programs grow, it will likely trigger similar growth in the western North American GHG programs and regional agreements. As discussed, Québec’s C&T system, which is linked with CARB’s program, has been growing and is being used to meet the Canadian federal GHG rules that are being put in place. Ontario’s program was annulled but shows that the discussion on how best to reduce GHG emission is a topic that continues to thrive, and we may see new programs developing even though some may hit some setbacks. The PCC shows that even if a Market Readiness Proposal and C&T Program is not the particular method chosen by a region to reduce emissions, many regions still see reducing GHG emissions as the future to create jobs, develop the economy, develop new infrastructure and maintain growth while protecting the environment.
About the Authors:
Cassandra Drotman Farrant is experienced in environmental consulting, specializing in environmental assessment and greenhouse gas (GHG) verification. She has participated in GHG verification projects throughout the U.S.
Raymond H. Huff is SCS Engineers’ National Expert on Greenhouse Gas. He specializes in landfill regulatory compliance; air quality/compliance issues, including GHG emissions quantification; and site assessment, remediation, and post-closure care.
Haley DeLong is experienced in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sustainable energy, and climate dynamics. She specializes in air quality consulting and has been involved in numerous projects related to air permitting and compliance with solid waste regulations, including preparing Title V and Non-Title V permit-to-construct/operate permit applications.
SCS Staff Professional, Spencer Nichols, supports clients as a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Specialist. He earned his BA in Political Science/International Relations & Environmental Studies with a Minor in Public Policy at Tulane University. Spencer is passionate about sustainability; in high school, he volunteered at a non-profit organization working closely with community members to create organic farms on school campuses. These farm projects provide healthy food to local food banks while at the same time educating students about the environmental and social benefits of organic agriculture. Spencer also led a service trip to Latin America to help agrarian communities restore their environment after regional industrial agriculture had caused widespread degradation. Spencer became Chapter President of the non-profit Global Student Embassy (GSE) and led a group of students in fundraising and environmental efforts. During his year-long tenure, he worked on environmental and community-based initiatives in California and Nicaragua, culminating in a fully-funded scholarship program for Nicaraguan students to visit GSE Chapters in the United States.
In 2017, Spencer met SCS Senior Project Manager, Tracie Bills, through his network, and learned about the SMM work she performs for SCS clients. They stayed in touch and would occasionally meet to discuss opportunities and the evolving environmental field. When the role for a SMM Specialist opened up at SCS, Spencer landed the job! SCS Engineers was a perfect fit for his interests, education, and entrepreneurial spirit. Five months in, Spencer still loves the work. In particular, he says he appreciates working in the environmental industry and enjoys learning something new every day.
Spencer works for numerous clients and finds the variety of his work rewarding because the focus is on recycling and organics management challenges. He is gaining experience in waste management sustainability and zero waste practices, as well as managing records, producing project updates, and conducting recycling characterization studies. For one of his clients, Spencer is working to identify recycling markets for wood so the materials can be repurposed instead of buried in landfills.
Spencer also conducts outreach, customer assistance, and technical assistance for another client in Contra Costa County, California. He supports their environmental and regulatory initiatives by “educating their clients on materials management best practices to ensure improved outcomes and an excellent customer service experience for everyone involved.” His mission is to help reduce business waste while improving diversion of materials away from landfills.
To be responsive in his role and for his customers, he works in a fast-paced environment. This challenge helps him grow professionally every day. Spencer’s passion for helping businesses reduce waste in a practical manner helps him work toward his ultimate goal to impact his community in a positive way.
Spencer is contemplating enrolling in graduate school to earn a Sustainability MBA; he also wants to continue his work as an environmental consultant in the Non-Profit Sector in his free time. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and photography – all in keeping with his passion for protecting our environment for future generations.
Well done, Spencer!
Find your career at SCS Engineers – We’re always looking for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, who find working for their clients, community, and the environment a rewarding journey!
Wendell, a Senior Project Professional in the SCS Engineers Sacramento office became interested in photography 35 years ago. He had broken his ankle and needed something to do because he felt grumpy not being able to play tennis. His tennis partner loaned him a camera, some film, and his dark room.
Wendell was hooked.
Wendell’s beautiful photos capture the reason we work with our clients to protect our environment. See a few pieces of his organic work, and look for more soon.
Mr. Minshew has over 30 years of engineering experience. He specializes in civil engineering services in the planning, design, permitting, and construction management of solid and hazardous waste facilities. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in California and Nevada.
Thank you for sharing, Wendell.