It’s hard to imagine something worse than a landfill, but what about a landfill that meets no legal requirements? The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has discovered that Rhode Island’s Central Landfill has been operational for nearly 16 years without limitations, and has filed a lawsuit against the company.
How does business, life work without rules? Simple answer: it doesn’t and more importantly it shouldn’t.
For the past 16 years, Rhode Island’s Central Landfill has been fully operational without a permit. Back in 1997, the state of Rhode Island was supposed to apply for a Title V operating permit with the state Department of Environmental Management, as outlined by the Clean Air Act. This permit would mean that the landfill would be monitored month-by-month and that it would have to follow specific guidelines as to hours of operation, emission limits, odor management, etc. Without this permit, the facility should not have been functioning at all. But that minor detail did not stop the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the owners and operators of this landfill, to continue to operate.
Because landfills generate various gases that can be harmful to humans and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated specific regulations on emissions, ones in which the owners and operators of this landfill didn’t feel obligated to adhere to. The neglect for these laws and the non-existent regulated monitoring has, as suspected, resulted in irreversible problems.
For example, a 100 ton standard has been set on the emission of sulfur dioxide. The Rhode Island Central Landfill emits 913 tons – more than nine times the legal limit. Oxygen-monitoring data shows that the O2 levels have also exceeded limits in 145 different wellheads. Within each landfill there needs to exist wellheads to trap the gases and push them through a series of pipes, in the case of the Rhode Island Central Landfill, these pipes were unable to perform even close to full efficiency and after having been inspected were determined to be not up to par. Lastly, during the period of only one month, there were 23 separate occasions in which the released volume of methane also exceeded legal limits.
There were also numerous complaints made by citizens of the surrounding areas in regard to the smells coming from the landfill. Due to the release of hydrogen sulfide, the stench of rotten eggs filled the daily air.
As a result of the disregard for regulation, all of these harmful gases and distasteful odors were simply released into the air.
The CLF is coincidentally suing the local power plant, which has literally been kept together with duct tape, broomsticks, and rope. A recent explosion at the plant is what finally brought attention to these illegal practices at the Rhode Island Central Landfill.
Just when we thought landfills couldn’t get worse, a story surfaces that depicts numerous and repeated violations of federal laws and regulations that are designed to protect our health and the environment. States need to impose harsher penalties for those that put us and the environment at risk and also find a better solution that moves us away from such an antiquated, potentially harmful, and inefficient system to one that utilizes clean, efficient alternatives.
In the case of the Rhode Island Central Landfill, guilty as charged.