In a letter to Congress, SWANA and NWRA associations request that regulation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response,Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination assign environmental cleanup liability to the industries that created the pollution in the first place. Both associations note that MSW landfills and solid waste managment, an essential public service do not manufacture nor use PFAS. The industry, and ultimately the general public should therefore not be burdened with CERCLA liability and costs associated with mitigating PFAS from water and wastewater.
May 10, 2022
Re: Relief for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills from CERCLA Liability for PFAS
Dear Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito, Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Chairman Pallone, and Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers:
The municipal solid waste (MSW) management sector strongly supports the goal of addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination and holding accountable manufacturers and heavy users of these compounds. We are concerned, however, that regulation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) instead would assign environmental cleanup liability to essential public services and their customers. We therefore request that Congress provide MSW landfills and other passive receivers with a narrow exemption from liability if certain PFAS are designated as hazardous substances under CERCLA. Doing so would keep CERCLA liability on the industries that created the pollution in the first place.
• Landfills neither manufacture nor use PFAS; instead, they receive discarded materials containing PFAS that are ubiquitous in residential and commercial waste streams. MSW landfills and the communities they serve should not be held financially liable under CERCLA for PFAS contamination, as landfills are part of the long-term solution to managing these compounds.
• Landfills are essential public services that are subject to extensive federal, state, and local environmental, health, and safety requirements. Further, MSW landfills are important to managing and limiting PFAS in the environment, as recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its December 2020 draft Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of [PFAS] and Materials Containing [PFAS].
• Just as certain airports are required by law to use firefighting foam containing PFAS, permitting authorities often require landfills to accept waste streams containing PFAS.
• Most landfills rely on wastewater treatment facilities for leachate management. Wastewater and drinking water facilities increasingly rely on landfills for biosolids management and disposal of PFAS-laden filters. Efforts to address PFAS at MSW landfills and drinking water and wastewater facilities must avoid disrupting this interdependence among essential public services to communities.
• Landfill leachate typically represents a minor proportion of the total quantity of PFAS received at wastewater treatment facilities from all sources. PFAS manufacturers or users, by comparison, contribute PFAS at levels that can be orders of magnitude higher than landfills.
Significant Economic Impacts
• Removing PFAS from landfill leachate requires advanced treatment techniques which are prohibitively expensive. Estimated capital costs to implement leachate pretreatment at a moderate-sized landfill to the extent necessary to significantly reduce PFAS range from $2 million to $7 million, with nationwide costs totaling $966 million to $6.279 billion per year for the solid waste sector. Trace concentrations of PFAS nevertheless would remain in leachate following pretreatment, exposing landfills to CERCLA liability.
• Absent relief from CERCLA liability, manufacturers and heavy users of PFAS compounds will bring claims for contribution against landfills and other passive receivers, generating significant litigation costs. EPA’s exercise of enforcement discretion will not insulate landfills from this litigation.
• These costs will be passed along to communities, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and biosolids management, all of which rely on the services of MSW landfills.
Broad Unintended Consequences
• CERCLA regulation will impel landfills to restrict inbound wastes and/or increase disposal costs for media with elevated levels of PFAS, including filters, biosolids, and impacted soils at Department of Defense facilities. The mere prospect of regulation in this area is already disrupting the interdependence of the drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste sectors.
• Food waste compost may contain PFAS due to contact with PFAS-lined packaging materials. As a result, a CERCLA designation could result in communities diverting food waste from organics recycling programs, hindering federal, state, and local climate and waste reduction goals.
• Cost increases likely will have a significant disproportionate impact on low-income households that rely on the affordability of services that the solid waste sector provides.
Although our sector is simultaneously pursuing “no action assurance” from EPA, the agency historically has been very hesitant to provide this relief given its policy that assurances should be given only “in extremely unusual cases.” As such, and acknowledging that EPA may have limited authority to act on our request, we recommend providing the following narrow exemption from CERCLA liability that affords relief to landfills and other passive receivers of PFAS1:
(a) IN GENERAL.—No publicly owned or operated community water system (as defined at 42 U.S.C. 300f), publicly owned treatment works (as defined at 33 U.S.C. 1292), or municipal solid waste landfill (as defined at 40 C.F.R. 258.2) shall be liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.) for the costs of responding to, or damages resulting from, a release to the environment of a perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substance designated as a hazardous substance under section 102(a) of such Act that resulted from the discharge of effluent, the disposal or management of biosolids, the disposal of filtration media resin, or the discharge of leachate where such actions are in compliance with Federal or State law and all applicable permits.
(b) EXCEPTION.—Subsection (a) shall not apply with respect to any discharge described in such subsection that results from any gross negligence, willful misconduct, or noncompliance with any Federal or State law or permit governing the discharge of effluent, disposal or management of biosolids, disposal of filtration media resin, or waste disposal.
Thank you for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the federal government to ensure the safe and effective management of waste streams containing PFAS.
National Waste & Recycling Association
Solid Waste Association of North America
cc: Senate EPW Committee Members
House T&I and E&C Committee Members
1 The exemption would not extend to underlying soil and groundwater contamination from a MSW landfill or to facilities other than MSW landfills that accept waste streams with elevated concentrations of PFAS.
SCS Engineers periodically prepares SCS Technical Bulletins – short, clear summaries of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and plans. On May 21, 2021, the EPA published a Federal Plan to implement the new Emission Guideline (EG) rule for municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The Federal Plan is published under Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 62, Subpart OOO.
Read, share, download the Federal Plan for Landfill EG Rule Tech Bulletin here.
(40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOO)
On May 21, 2021, EPA published the final MSW Landfills Federal Plan, which implements the 2016 Emission Guidelines (EG Subpart Cf) under 40 CFR Part 62 Subpart OOO. The Federal Plan becomes effective June 21, 2021, and impacts landfills that have not triggered NSPS Subpart XXX requirements and landfills located in states and Indian country without EPA-approved EG Cf rules.
Affected are MSW landfills that commenced construction on or before July 17, 2014, and have not been modified or reconstructed since July 17, 2014.
The Federal Plan requires existing landfills that reach an annual emissions threshold of 34 metric tons of nonmethane organic compounds (NMOC) or more to install a system to collect and control landfill gas (GCCS). It also implements various emission limits, compliance schedules, testing, monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping requirements for GCCSs established in the 2016 Emission Guidelines for MSW Landfills.
The Federal Plan also establishes a definition for “legacy controlled landfills.” These are landfills that have previously satisfied the requirement to submit an initial design capacity report, initial (or annual) NMOC emission rate reports, and collection and control system design plan under 40 CFR part 60, subpart WWW; 40 CFR part 62, subpart GGG; or a state/tribal plan implementing 40 CFR part 60, subpart Cc.
If you are subject to the Federal Plan and are not a “legacy controlled landfill,” you must submit a design capacity report by September 20, 2021. And if the design capacity report indicates a capacity equal to or greater than 2.5 million Mg and 2.5 million m3 of solid waste, you must also submit an initial NMOC emission rate report within 90 days after the effective date of the Federal Plan (September 20, 2021).
SCS is working to develop a Technical Bulletin for distribution to our mailing list and on social media. The Bulletin will consolidate the Final Rule into several pages highlighting significant dates and key impacts for you.
On March 1, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) proposed several amendments to air quality regulations pertaining to the regulation of New Jersey Hazardous Air Pollutants (NJHAPs) as well as fumigation operations. The NJHAP regulations changes could significantly impact MSW landfills because they include proposed changes to hydrogen sulfide regulation as a NJHAP.
Key changes are summarized as follows:
Several potential implications could result from these proposed changes, including:
A virtual public hearing regarding the proposed changes is scheduled for April 8, 2021, at 4:00 PM (ET). A link to the virtual public hearing will be posted at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/aqm/curformp.html.
Written comments are due no later than April 30, 2021, to www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments.
View the proposed changes may be viewed at https://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/proposals/20210301a.pdf
Please direct questions to your SCS Project Manager or one of our local professionals:
EPA has issued a revised NESHAP standard for municipal solid waste landfills. The new rule reflects EPA’s conclusions regarding the residual risk and technology rule, resolves confusion created when the previous rule was not updated at the same time as the landfill NSPS and updates landfill gas well head criteria for temperature. EPA is also clarifying that the standards are applicable during periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction, and requiring electronic reporting of performance test results.
This action finalizes the residual risk and technology review (RTR) conducted for the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfills source category regulated under National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) contained within 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 63, Subpart AAAA. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking final action to:
The EPA is also finalizing minor changes to the MSW Landfills NSPS and Emission Guidelines (EG) and Compliance Times for MSW Landfills contained within 40 CFR Part 60, Subparts XXX and Cf. Specifically, the EPA is finalizing provisions to the most recent MSW Landfills NSPS and EG that would allow affected sources to demonstrate compliance with landfill gas control, operating, monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements by following the corresponding requirements in the MSW Landfills NESHAP. According to EPA, these final amendments will result in improved compliance and implementation of the rule and eliminate some of the confusion created by the previous version of the EPA rule.
We’ve pulled this information from the Final Amendments to Air Toxics Standards for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills and SCS will publish an SCS Technical Bulletin on our blog and social media sites. Please contact your Project Manager for details specific to your operation.
Approximately 738 MSW landfills are subject to the NESHAP.
On February 25, 2020, EPA finalized amendments to the 2003 NESHAP for MSW Landfills. EPA issued air toxics standards for the MSW Landfills source category in 2003 that established emission limitations based on maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from major and area sources.
The rule required MSW landfills greater than 2.5 million megagrams (Mg) and 2.5 million cubic meters with uncontrolled emissions greater than 50 Mg/year of non-methane organic compounds (NMOC) to install and operate a gas collection and control system (GCCS). Most emissions from MSW landfills come from the continuous biodegredation of the MSW. Landfill gas contains methane, carbon dioxide and more than 100 different NMOC, including, but not limited to, vinyl chloride, ethyl benzene, benzene and toluene.
Based on the RTR, EPA is finalizing no changes to the existing standards because the agency determined the risks to be acceptable with an ample margin of safety to protect public health and the environment. In addition, EPA did not identify any new cost-effective emission controls for MSW landfills. However, EPA is finalizing several minor amendments to reorganize and streamline requirements for MSW landfills that will improve the clarity, compliance and implementation of the rule. These include:
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to regulate toxic air pollutants, also known as air toxics, from categories of industrial facilities in two phases. The first phase is “technology-based,” where EPA develops standards for controlling the emissions of air toxics from sources in an industry group or “source category.” EPA bases these MACT standards on emission levels that are already being achieved by the best-controlled and lower-emitting sources in an industry. Within 8 years of setting the MACT standards, the CAA directs EPA to assess the remaining health risks from each source category to determine whether the MACT standards protect public health with an ample margin of safety and protect against adverse environmental effects. This second phase is a “risk-based” approach called residual risk. Here, EPA must determine whether more health-protective standards are necessary.
Every 8 years after setting MACT standards, the CAA requires EPA to review and revise the standards, if necessary, to account for improvements in air pollution controls and/or prevention and to address any residual risks that still remain after the MACT is implemented.
The CAA requires EPA to assess the risk remaining after application of the final air toxics emission standards; known as a residual risk assessment. Based on the completed risk assessment, available health information, and associated uncertainties, EPA determined risks from the MSW Landfills source category are acceptable and provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health. EPA estimates the maximum individual lifetime cancer risk for inhalation for the source category to be less than 10-in-1 million.
The CAA requires EPA to assess, review and revise air toxics standards, as necessary, taking into account developments in practices, processes and control technologies. The technology review of the standards for MSW Landfills did not identify any developments that would further reduce HAP emissions beyond the original NESHAP.
Download a copy of the final rule notice from EPA’s website at the following address: https://www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/municipal-solid-waste-landfills-national-emission-standards.
SCS will publish an SCS Technical Bulletin on our blog and social media sites. Please contact your Project Manager for details specific to your operation.
SCS Customer Support:
Our latest SCS Technical Bulletin summarizes the EPA federal mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting program (GHGRP) into two pages of the most vital information. The new reporting requirements for Subparts HH and A discussed in our bulletin are effective January 1, 2017.
Remaining updates will be phased in from 2017 to 2019. These updates include, but are not limited to, revisions to the reporting regulation for all reporters including Subpart A Administrative Requirements, Subpart C Stationary Combustion Sources, and Subpart HH Municipal Solid Waste Landfills the three most common reporting sectors for MSW landfills. SCS Engineers will continue to post timely information, resources, and presentations to keep you well informed.
Use our resources for guidance or to answer questions.
John F. Hartwell, Ph.D., PE., CHMM, and Senior Consultant at SCS Engineers recently successfully defended his dissertation and earned his Ph.D. An abstract of Dr. Hartwell’s dissertation follows:
METHODOLOGY FOR ASSESSING MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE USING A LARGE-DIAMETER BOREHOLE
LTC John F. Hartwell, Ph.D., P.E.
University of Nebraska, 2015
Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are permanent repositories of society’s non-hazardous wastes. Landfill facilities are becoming harder to site, resulting in increasing pressure to maximize the use of available airspace. Increasingly, this results in developing additional airspace by way of vertical expansion. This expansion imparts greater stress on the landfill mass and the containment infrastructure.
The engineer’s understanding of the geotechnical properties of MSW has been limited to sampling of relatively shallow test pits and reconstitution of disturbed MSW samples in the laboratory. Deeper assessment using small diameter borings is difficult and produces poor low volume samples for ex-situ testing. Some researchers have synthesized MSW with obvious limitations. Landfill failures have provided opportunities for back calculation of MSW properties including shear strength, but these estimates are based on limited understanding of unit weight and moisture content with depth.
The recent trend for the harvesting of methane produced by the anaerobic degradation of MSW has resulted in the need for nearly full-depth, large-diameter, landfill gas collection wells. Prior to completion, these boreholes provide excellent opportunities for directly observing and measuring the condition of MSW in its buried, variably degraded state at depths that are far greater than previously accessible.
The large diameter MSW gas well borehole assessment methodology presented in this paper is shown to be an efficient and valuable means for characterizing MSW. This means that the cost of the assessment is relatively low as the drilling costs are negligible and therefore limited to the cost of labor to sample and perform field observation and laboratory testing. The assessment methodology, which includes scaled full coverage photography and videography, allows precise analysis of a number of geotechnical properties such as wet and dry unit weight, moisture content, specific gravity, void ratio, % saturation of MSW and buried soil layers throughout the depth of the borehole. Further, MSW constituents and biologic degradation can be measured. The orientation / alignment of tensile reinforcement within the waste mass is readily observable. Zones of perched leachate and the effects of mechanical creep on borehole diameter can also be measured.
Learn more about MSW Landfill Services from SCS.
SCS Engineers and their clients appreciate the support. The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supportive comments on the proposed revisions to the Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) Permits Rule for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills (80 FR70180, November 13, 2015).
EPA’s proposed extension to the RD&D Rule would afford landfill owners the opportunity to continue to operate and develop new data and information that would influence future decision-making by regulators and industry alike. The time extension will provide additional time to help landfill owners evaluate and realize the financial value of the RD&D projects, thus increasing landfill owners’ confidence in implementing related large scale projects. These investments would be for the design, construction, additional monitoring and data collection and reporting that accompany long-term research projects, such as those associated with bioreactor landfills.
The RD&D rule provides the ability to obtain data on best practices to address both the advantages and challenges associated with bioreactor landfills. Operating these types of landfills have many advantages, they are not without their challenges. A bioreactor landfill is much more complex than a typical landfill.
NWRA, SWANA, and SCS Engineers believe this proposed rule will promote new research demonstration projects and support the continued research at existing projects so that EPA will have the information necessary to consider changes to the MSW landfill operating criteria.