Hazardous Waste Land Disposal Facility Operating Permits/Post-Closure Permits
When hazardous waste is placed in or on the land and the waste remains after closure, the activity is defined as "Land Disposal." The most recognized type of land disposal facility is the "landfill"; however, New York State's hazardous waste regulations recognize that land disposal may also occur when waste is placed in other types of facilities, such as surface impoundments and waste piles. Even tanks (above ground or below ground) which store hazardous waste and have leaked their contents into the surrounding soil and groundwater are considered a "landfill" if all contamination cannot be removed when the tank is closed.
It is the responsibility of the Division of Environmental Remediation to review permit applications and prepare draft permits for all sites which meet the definition of a hazardous waste land disposal facility. A facility actively engaged in land disposal receives an operating permit; a closed facility must receive a post-closure permit.
A facility which actively places hazardous waste on the land (e.g., a landfill) must obtain an operating permit issued by the Department. As a prerequisite to receiving a permit, an owner or operator of a land disposal facility must submit an application which demonstrates how the facility will be constructed and operated in order to comply with all applicable regulations. When the Department determines that the facility is capable of meeting the regulatory requirements, it prepares a draft permit that undergoes a public participation process, including a public notification and comment period, and potentially, a public hearing if substantive issues are identified.
Each draft permit contains detailed construction and operational conditions which are meant to protect human health and the environment by minimizing the potential for release of wastes from the facility. The Department regulations found in Parts 370-376 and the permit application documents, including engineering reports and plans, form the basis of the permit. Some of the most significant requirements included in a land disposal permit include:
- Design and performance standards for the liner, leachate collection and removal, and leak detection systems.
- Restrictions on the type and concentrations of wastes.
- A waste analysis plan to assure compliance with land disposal restrictions and compatibility/safety issues in waste handling.
- An inspection and maintenance program.
- A groundwater monitoring system.
- Run-on and run-off control systems capable of managing precipitation from storms.
- A contingency plan for emergencies (e.g., fire, explosion).
- Closure and post-closure plans and financial assurance mechanisms for long-term care of the facility.
In addition to obtaining a hazardous waste permit from the Department, as described above, any new land disposal facility (with few exceptions) must receive a "certificate of environmental safety and public necessity" from a facility siting board, constituted by the Governor of New York State, as delineated in Environmental Conservation Law, Article 27, Title 11. In general, the facility siting board must consider several criteria including: health and safety of adjacent populations; impacts upon water supplies, air, and groundwater resources; and the need for the facility.
Once an owner or operator ceases to operate a land disposal facility, the facility must close in accordance with an approved closure plan and commence post-closure care for 30 years, unless modified by the Department. Landfills generally close as a disposal facility (i.e., wastes remain in the ground after closure), whereas waste piles and surface impoundments may attempt to close by removing all waste and waste residuals. If unsuccessful, they too must close as a landfill and conduct post-closure care. Tank systems and containment buildings, although intended strictly for waste storage, also could become subject to the post-closure care requirements that apply to landfills if contaminated soils (and groundwater) cannot be removed or decontaminated during closure.
Therefore, for a hazardous waste management unit which is, or must close as, a land disposal facility, the Department will issue a post-closure permit containing appropriate post-closure care requirements, including, but not limited to: maintenance, inspection, groundwater monitoring and corrective action. The Department will request the submission of a post-closure permit application from the owner/operator of such a facility, and the application will be processed in the same manner as one for an operating permit, described earlier.