Municipal Landfill Remediation Program
Maine has about 414 municipal landfills that include current licensed operating sites, closed site or inactive sites that no longer take municipal waste but never went through an approved closure process. Most were unlicensed sites that threatened ground and surface water quality because of inappropriate siting, inadequate design or improper operation. The majority of these sites dated from the 1960s', 70s' and 80s' and were often located in old gravel pits where they posed a risk to groundwater supplies. Waste was initially burned but in later years was covered on a daily basis fill material. The slow rate of closures during the late 1970's and early to mid 1980's showed the need for the state to provide assistance to municipalities for the proper planning and closure of these sites.
To address this problem, the Maine Legislature created the Landfill Closure and Remediation Program 38 MRSA §1310-C et. seq.) in 1988. The program is currently administered through the Division of Remediation. Its objectives are to promptly close landfills that pose hazards to public health and the environment; and to remediate existing hazards posed by closed municipal solid waste landfills.
What is Closure? What is Remediation?
Closure. Closure consists of measures taken to minimize or prevent contamination from landfills. Closure typically involves the placement of a soil cover or synthetic cap over the landfill to minimize the infiltration of precipitation into the waste. The municipality owning and/or operating the landfill is responsible for carrying out closure and remedial measures.
Remediation. Remediation refers to steps taken to clean up or reduce contamination from landfills generally after basic closure has occurred. Remediation is assessed on a site by site basis where the landfill operation has caused off-site contamination and may include leachate collection and treatment systems, replacement water supplies, public water lines, home filtering systems, gas ventilation systems, or in rare instances property purchases.
The Department is responsible for overseeing the evaluation of municipal landfills. Evaluations typically involve hiring private consultants to examine site geology and ground water conditions. The purposes are: to evaluate the likelihood or extent of contamination; to identify environmental hazards; and to develop closure plans. Evaluations usually include test borings and water quality analyses to identify and monitor environmental impacts. In many cases, towns have been allowed to conduct these evaluations with the approval of the Department.
Closed Landfill Inspections
The DEP attempts to inspect the condition of every closed landfill site once every 3 to 4 years. Our site visit will be followed up with an inspection report letter to the municipality.
If the municipality wishes to conduct their own inspection and submit a report to the department, future DEP inspections can be minimized. Please contact program staff for details.
Invasive Plant Fact Sheet Common Reed (pdf format) (Off-Site)
Invasive Plant Fact Sheet Japanese Knotweed (pdf format) (Off-Site)
In most cases, the state paid 75% of closing costs for towns that had established written agreements with the Department (see below for current status).
For landfills that require additional remediation measures, the state may pay up to 90% of these costs.
Since 1987, Maine voters have approved $77.3 million in bond funds for landfill closure and remediation. An additional $4.25 million in state general funds have also been made available. About $81.34 million has been distributed to towns and consultants. These funds have supported the closure of 388 landfills and additional evaluations as well as remedial actions at several sites.
Post Closure Use
If municipalities are considering possible post closure use of the landfill site, please refer to the links below for the DEP policy regarding sludge spreading or other activities.
Sludge Use on Landfills (pdf format)
Development on or near Landfills Guidance (pdf format)
The department typically discourages post closure uses that involve alterations to the constructed cover system.
Except as provided in the 2011 revisions to (38 MRSA §1310-F), DEP has discontinued the reimbursement of landfill closure costs incurred after December 31, 1999. As of September 2000, DEP had reimbursed municipalities for all outstanding state obligations related to landfill closure work. However, under the authority vested in DEP by 38 MRSA 1310-C (1) (B) to establish a landfill remediation program, the Landfill Program will be conducting inspections and reviews of previously closed sites. It may be necessary to conduct remedial activities at selected sites if and when environmental or human health risks are discovered. Costs incurred by municipalities related to remedial activities continue to be eligible for State assistance.
38 MRSA §1310-C et. seq.
The Division of Remediation's Sites List Database - The public record of sites in the Division of Remediation, including Landfill Closure Sites.
Note: Old abandoned landfill sites that ceased operation prior to 1976 which did not pass through the Landfill Closure Program may not be listed. Contact the program for information.
Interstate Technical & Regulatory Council (ITRC) Guidance documents and education materials on site characterization and remedial technologies.
U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste
U.S. EPA Superfund Program
40 CFR, Part 258-Criteria for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills - Not a direct link to a "search"
DEP Solid Waste Management