You Can’t Turn A Landfill OFF!!

At the city Environment Committee December 12, 2011 a question raised by committee to Plasco illustrated a point I have long made about modern waste disposal verses landfills. Plasco (Rod Brydon) was asked if environmental exceedances for air emissions were recorded during operations over the years. The answer was yes limits were exceeded and the exact number of times were recorded and for how long and by how much. This was possible because of continuous monitoring of many contaminates. The key point was that the exact number of minutes that the plant ran before it was shut down was known and recorded. The plant was only turn back on when corrective measures were made.

When this is compared to landfill disposal we see significant differences. Landfill air and water emissions are monitored only a few times a year; so when exceedances happen and for how long they exist is no well known. However the major difference is that when a landfill is found to exceed emissions limits it cannot be shut off while sources are determined and fixed. When a landfill exceedance is detected mitigation processes are identified, engineered and implemented and over time hopefully the emission is reduced to acceptable levels. An example of this is how it took several years before odour emissions at the Carp road landfill could be significantly reduced after detection.

So modern waste disposal has continuous monitoring and can be shut down until problems are fixed. If problems cannot be fixed the plant is not turned back on and environmental impacts cease.

Landfills are monitored very infrequently and cannot be shut down to fix problems. If problems cannot be fixed, at best the landfill is closed but emissions continue until possible mitigation is designed and implemented.

Finally at the end of life, modern disposal like Plasco are shut down removed and the site is cleaned with no ongoing emissions. A landfill on the other hand remains in place for ever and emissions continue for many years (> several 100 years) requiring ongoing monitoring and mitigation.