Environmental Law Blog
A Landfill is not a Dump
Solid waste can spoil the environment and pose risks to human health unless it is properly managed. The state and most counties and cities have laws and regulations for solid waste management. State law requires permits and engineering controls for operations such as landfills, trash transfer stations, recycling centers and waste tire storage facilities. Operators of such businesses are required to have plans to ensure that the facilities are not causing surface or groundwater contamination, air pollution, or public nuisance. Here are some examples of legal obligations imposed: An operator of an active landfill has to cover exposed trash with soil before the end of each operating day to prevent blowing litter. A closed landfill is required to be covered with a thick cap that has a gentle slope and is covered with grass to prevent erosion and to keep water from passing through the trash and running off into streams and lakes. Waste tires have to be stored in a way that does not allow water to collect and attract mosquitoes because such insects can transmit dangerous diseases.
The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the state solid waste permit programs and conducts regular inspections of facilities. When an operator is not in compliance with the permit or regulations, the Department may ask the Attorney General to file a lawsuit to force the violator to pay penalties and fix the problems caused by the violations.
Leaving solid waste anywhere other than at a permitted facility, or burning it instead of properly disposing of it, is illegal under state law. Violators may be required to pay to civil penalties and to clean it up. In some cases, the violators can face criminal penalties. There are limited exceptions for related to farming and manufacturing operations, and individuals may be allowed to dispose of personal waste from their own residential activities on their own property, so long as they do not create a public nuisance or affect public health. Questions regarding the proper disposal of solid waste can be directed to county or city health departments, solid waste management districts, the Department of Natural Resources, or the Attorney General.