If you are like most people, it can be aggravating to have your plans interrupted by an unexpected closure. Pulling up to the golf course, ready for a relaxing 18 holes, only to find it closed for maintenance on the greens? Going to the tanning bed, only to find it closed due to bulb changing or renovations? Health Club? Movie Theatre? Landfill? Grocery … wait, hold that thought… Landfill? Yes!
In today’s world, the landfill is not the public’s concept of a “dump” that was used until the mid-70’s, perceived to be little more than holes dug in the ground. Today’s landfills are engineered sites equipped with liner systems, leachate collection and removal, leak detection systems, run on, runoff, and wind dispersal controls, scales, computer operating systems, and quality assurance programs. Additionally, the landfills must operate under strict permit requirements and controls in order to keep in compliance with the regulations in place to safely store and manage the wastes we generate. And yes, with all these working parts, there are times when even the landfill may be closed. The main reasons for temporary closures at the landfill are weather related, such as:
- High Winds: Litter control is a big issue at landfills. Landfills are required to control litter and prevent the off-site migration of plastic bags, trash, and other debris once received at the disposal facility. Cover (usually dirt) is used to prevent wind dispersal of materials, but cover is generally applied at the end of the day after waste has been compacted. Many landfills are required by State or Local regulations to cease operations during periods of high winds, usually defined as sustained winds of greater than 40 mph, or gusts exceeding 50 to 55 mph.
- Excessive Rain: Despite all the latest technology in modern landfills, roads within the footprint of the landfill facility are generally made of compacted dirt and are affected by large quantities of rain. Excessive rain can cause heavy, waste carrying trucks to bog down when driving across the landfill to reach the working face dumping area. Flooding of roads within or leading to the landfill can also be an issue.
- Inclement Weather/Severe Winter Weather Conditions: Inclement weather can cause many problems for landfill operations. In addition to causing multiple safety concerns, trucks can slip off frozen roads, and high winds can turn objects into projectiles potentially causing damage to equipment or injuring personnel. Excessive snow and ice can cause compaction of trash problems. Additionally, many landfills are located in rural areas, so it can be dangerous to transport wastes over long distances to get to the sites. Inclement weather can make it dangerous to get operational personnel to and from remotely located landfill facilities.
- Hurricanes: In addition to flooding, wind damage, and other issues, hurricanes can affect operations by damaging equipment, causing road closures, or requiring closures caused by mandatory or voluntary evacuations. Flooding conditions can keep landfills closed for multiple days after a storm passes. Power outages can last days or even weeks after a hurricane. However, many facilities have emergency generators temporarily powering parts or all of the facility in times of emergency need.
- Tornados: Damage to gatehouse, computer-operating equipment, scales, and border containment (i.e. perimeter fencing) can cause facilities to temporarily close until damages are repaired.
There are other reasons why a landfill may have to close many a direct result of weather. A power outage can shutdown computer operating systems and gatehouses. Prolonged excessive rains can cause slope failures in cell walls potentially blocking roads or otherwise affect operating in compliance with permits. Flooding can also affect the treatment of run-on or run-off water as well as discharges from permitted outfalls.
Other reasons that landfills may temporarily close include:
- Scales not working or requiring recalibration.
- Power outages.
- Labor force issues/strikes.
- Other weather related issues.