Closing Open Dumps
  * -V
  . \*f


     The National  Survey of Community Solid Waste Practices,

underway in the States and territories since 1966, spotlights

the magnitude of the national  problem of solid waste dumping."

Conducted with the aid of the Bureau of Solid Waste Manage-

ment, the Survey had identified more than 13,600 solid waste

land disposal sites--and less than 5 percent of them can be

considered to meet the minimum standards for sanitary land-

fills.  Over 95 percent exhibit one or more of the following

characteristics of a dump:  unsightly appearance, blowing

paper, dust, burning wastes, pollution of surface or

groundwater, and infestation by rodents and insects.
     *Black, R. J., A. J. Munich, A. J. Klee, H. L. Hickman, Jr.,
and R. D. Vaughan.  The national  solid wastes survey; an interim
report.  U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare,
[1968].  53 p.

          CLOSING   OPEN   DUMPS
         This report  (SW-61ts) was written by

Dirk R. Brunner, S. Jackson Hubbard, Daniel J. Keller,

                  and James L. Newton
              Solid Waste Management Office

                            Reprinted,  1976
                        with a minor correction
                               on page  2
     Single copies  of  this  publication will  be distributed  as  supplies
permit.   Address  requests  to  Solid Waste  Information,  U.S.  Environmental
Protection Agency,  26  W. St.  Clair Street, Cincinnati,  Ohio  45268.


     The predominant means of solid waste disposal over the Nation

today is open dumping, where a community has a piece of land, and

collection trucks and individuals dump solid wastes indiscriminately.

The wastes are not covered, and generally the community exercises

no control over the site.  The dump is a source of pollution and

environmental degradation, and frequently the situation has been

deteriorating over a period of years.

     Communities and their States are now beginning, however, to

take a close look at this unacceptable disposal practice.  Many people

realize that open dumping must end, and some State legislatures and

city and county authorities have already outlawed the practice.

     These developments have created a need for providing guidance

on how to close a dump and how to dispose of solid wastes on land

in an acceptable manner.  This publication tells why dumps should

be closed and describes the closing process.
                                    --RICHARD D. VAUGHAN
                                      Assistant Surgeon General
                                      Acting Commissioner
                                      Solid Waste Management Office
                                    i i i

                           CLOSING OPEN DUMPS

            An Open Dump--What  It  Is, Why  It Should Be Closed

     A dump is a land disposal  site where  solid wastes are deposited

with little or no regard for pollution controls or aesthetics.  Dumps

create health hazards, scenic blight, economic loss—and all  in all,

a spectacular demonstration of  what  is wrong with solid waste management

in the United States.  A dump may  be referred to as "open," because

the wastes are left uncovered,  and often neither the existence nor the

use of the dump are authorized  and there is no supervision.

     Every type of solid waste  has been deposited in dumps—abandoned

tires and automobiles, old furniture and kitchen appliances,  industrial

and commercial wastes, agricultural byproducts, trees, vegetation, demo-

lition and construction wastes, as well as mixed household refuse.  Every

type of topography—ranging from flat, completely exposed areas, to

steep ravines, to stream banks—has been used for this open dumping

(Figure 1).

     Frequently, an open dump is also a burning dump.  The fire may

be spontaneous.  It may result  from the deposit of smoldering wastes.

More often, however, the fire is purposely set in an attempt  to reduce

volume at the dump or on the erroneous assumption that burning will

destroy the food that attracts  rodents and insects.

     Health hazards are created by dumps through the presence of

biological and chemical contaminants, which air, water, birds,  insects,

and rodents can carry to man and his domestic animals.  A burning

dump pollutes the air, most commonly in the form of highly visible

clouds of particles and incompletely burned gases, or the nauseating

stench of smoldering garbage (Figure 2).  These air pollutants can

cause human respiratory disease.  They also soil buildings, clothing,

and furnishings, and are a fire hazard to buildings, fields, and


     A dump can pollute both surface and groundwater.   The wastes

themselves, when dumped on banks of streams or lakes or in swampy

areas, can pollute the water directly.  A less obvious form of water

pollution occurs when rain or surface water percolates down through

uncovered or improperly managed dumps and carries portions of the

wastes into the underlying groundwater.

     A dump provides food and shelter for vermin.  Extermination

efforts by themselves last only a short time—and even then are not

100 percent effective.  Burning the wastes may reduce food sources

in a limited way, but often only the paper and plast.ic packaging

burns, thus making the food more readily available to vermin.

     There are other health threats to humans created by the existence

of dumps, since typically the dumps are open to uncontrolled scavenging.

Sharp fragments of glass and metal  and other hazardous objects* plus

pathogenic organisms, toxic chemicals, and open fires present a real

danger to those roaming the dumps.   The scavengers often interfere

with the operation of the dump.

     FIGURE 1.
economic loss.
Open dumps create health hazards,  scenic blight, and
     FIGURE 2.  An open burning dump pollutes air, water, and land,
and demonstrates spectacularly what is wrong with solid waste manage-
ment throughout the Nation.

     Dumps disfigure the landscape,   fn the words of the Congress of

the United States they ".  .  .  have an adverse effect on land values,

create public nuisances [and]  otherwise interfere with community  life

and development."1

     The aesthetic degradation produced by open dumps is difficult to

assess in any but abstract terms;  it is,  nevertheless, very real.  No

accurate appraisal has been  made of  the impact a dump has on the value

of neighboring property, but one thing is  cleai—nobody wants one near

his home.  The National Survey of Community Solid Waste Practices indi-

cates that over 60 percent of such sites  are in agricultural or rural

areas.  Despite such typical locations, the existence of "garbage dumps"

is well  known.  As a matter  of fact, when  most people think of solid

waste disposal they have a dump in mind.   They do so with reason, because

up to 90 percent of community wastes are  now deposited in dumps.  This

association of wastes and dumps is so well established that it is the

major stumbling block to the location, construction, and operation of

sanitary landfills.  People  have to  be shown that sanitary landfills

are entirely different from  dumps before  they will  accept their use.

     The economic costs of an open dump are never fully appreciated.

In the long term, a dump will  probably prove more expensive to a com-

munity's inhabitants than a  sanitary landfill.   Even without putting

a price on the aesthetic blight produced  by a dump,  a community will

pay more for maintenance,  laundry, cleaning, and painting due to smoke.

There is no doubt that the value of  real  estate nearby to dumps is

ously reduced, which reduces the community's tax base.  Moreover, this
sen -

drain on the public continues until the dump  is effectively and properly

closed.  In contrast, a sanitary  landfill  is  more acceptable while being

operated, and completed sections  provide  land that can be used for recre-

ation or other purposes.

     Industry is becoming  increasingly aware  that solid wastes must

be disposed of properly.  The selection of a  new plant location may

depend on the ability of the disposal system  to accept industrial wastes

without degrading the environment.  Many  companies would not consider

open dumping acceptable because these firms know they will be the target

of adverse publicity  if pollution  problems arise.

     State legislatures are  responding to the public's growing awareness

of the shortcomings of open  dumping and burning.  Many States have al-

ready begun to outlaw these  practices.  The alternative to open dumping

is the sanitary  landfill.  Present technology offers incineration and

composting as methods of reducing  the volume  of waste that must be ul-

timately disposed of on the  land  (Appendix A).

                           How To  Close A Dump

     Governmental agencies,  industry, citizens, and environmental effects

should all be considered in  developing a  plan to eliminate a dump and

to establish an  acceptable substitute.  The plan should provide for

informing everyone about the need  for closing the dump and the procedures

that will be followed.  The  plan  should also  outline the funding arrange-

ments necessary  to carry out the  operation and the anticipated use of

the closed site.  If the present  dump location is suitable,  it is often

more feasible to convert the dump into a sanitary landfill than to es-

tablish a new site.

     Information Dissemination.   It is imperative that the public, indus-

try, and municipal  agencies be kept informed of activities pertaining

to the dump closing.   They are the source of the necessary funds and

their cooperation is  critical  to a satisfactory solid waste disposal

program.  They should, therefore, be told:

        • Why the dump is being closed

        • How the job wi11 be done

        • What method of acceptable waste disposal  will replace

          the dump

        • What the costs are

     A vigorous program is essential to success, and all  the various

techniques of information dissemination can be used to help win a favor-

able press.2  Keeping the public informed should begin when the planning

starts and continue with progress reports until the dump is closed and

the new disposal method is operating successfully.

     Disposal During and After Closure.  A dump cannot be closed in one

day.  The rat extermination program alone normally requires up to 2 weeks,

and extinguishing fires may take another week.  Compacting and covering

may take over 2 months, depending upon the size of the dump.

     Open dumping must stop before rat extermination starts, and only

authorized personnel  should be allowed on the site during the closing

operation.  An-approved site, with fixed and posted hours of operation,

must be established for the wastes formerly disposed of at the dump.

Complete information about the new  facility  should be displayed at  the

entrance to the closed dump and advertised  in  news media.

     The cooperation of  those delivering wastes  to the dump  is needed

to ensure success.  The  managements of  private and municipal collectors

should be told  in advance of changes  in disposal procedures.  This  infor-

mation should also be available to  collection  crews.  If   individual

citizens also use the dump, an  intensive public  information  campaign

should be undertaken.

     Rat Extermination.  Rat extermination must  be given special attention

when closing an active dump.3  At an  old open  dump where the food source

has been exhausted,  rats and  insects  are unlikely to be present.  Where

there  is a  nearby food source,  the  old  dump  may  still be used by rats

for harborage.   It  is necessary,  therefore,  to positively  establish the

absence of  rats.   If  rats are present,  an extermination program must

be conducted.   If the dump closing  operation is  improperly conducted,

the rat problem may  be compounded.

     Rats are potential  carriers  of numerous diseases, and if they  are

not killed  when a dump is closed, they  may pose  even more  of a problem

than when they are at the dump.   They may migrate in numbers to populated

areas  in search of food  and harborage.  At a minimum, this would cause

unfavorable reaction to  the dump  closing and the situation would worsen

if there was a rise  in the incidence  of rat  bites.

     Only trained personnel should  be allowed  to conduct the operation

since the improper use of poisons is  dangerous and may lead  to  lawsuits.

The work is best done by a pest control specialist or by a government

rodent control expert.  Assistance may be obtained from State and  local

health officials, pest control  services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv-

ice, the Bureau of Community Environmental  Management, or the Bureau

of Solid Waste Management,  U.S. Public Health Service.  More detailed

information is readily available elsewhere.4'7

     Extinguishing Fires.   Fires at dumps may be difficult and expensive

to extinguish.  In some cases the burning solid waste may have to be

exposed and spread out, requiring the use of heavy earthmoving equipment.

The operator must work very carefully to prevent injuring himself or

damaging his equipment.  Spreading the waste generally allows the fire

to partially burn itself out, and water can then be applied to the

smoldering remains.   The fire can usually be extinguished while the rat

poisoning program is underway.

     Covering the Dump.  Immediately following the rat poisoning and

fire extinguishing,  the dump surface should be graded, compacted, and

covered with at least 2 feet of soil- In closing large dumps, the rat

extermination program should be maintained  while successive sections of

the dump are covered.  To grade, compact, and cover most dumps, large

crawler dozers will  usually be  necessary.  Either the trench or the area

method is generally  used in closing the dump.

     In the trench method,  wastes are spread in thin layers in an excava-

tion, compacted,  and then  covered with the  excavated soil  (Figure 3).

This achieves maximum density and minimum settlement.  The cover material

should be compacted  to keep flies in and rats out,  and it  should be graded

to keep surface water from  ponding.  The bottom of  the trench should

be kept above the level of  high groundwater.


                         DUMPED  SOLID WASTE
                               SOLID  WASTE
                                           FORMER  GRADE
                                          EXCAVATED  TRENCH
                         SOLID WASTE
     FIGURE 3-   In the trench method of covering a dump, the wastes
are spread in thin layers  in an excavation, compacted, and then
covered with the excavated soil, compacted, and graded.

     The area method also involves spreading the wastes in thin  layers,

compacting it, and then covering it with a minimum of 2 feet of  compacted

soil (Figure 4).  If the solid waste is spread over a large area,  it

must be consolidated and compacted to reduce the amount of settlement

and cover material required.   The cover material must be graded  to avoid

ponding of surface water.  A modification of this method is used to close

bank-type dumps (Figure 5)•

     Protection of Water Quality.  If the dump is in a marshland or an

area where the groundwater or surface waters have been contaminated,

remedial action should be taken by removing the solid waste from the

water or treating the water.   The latter step is normally not feasible

because of the difficulty in collecting and. treating contaminated water.

The solid waste and water can be separated by diverting the flow of water

or by removing the solid waste from the watercourse.  If necessary, sur-

face streams may be relocated and the groundwater level  lowered, but

it is often more economical  to remove the solid waste from the stream

using draglines.  Removal of old solid waste usually produces very un-

pleasant odors, so workmen may have to wear gas masks.

     The solid waste removed from the water should not be allowed to

create new problems.  Since  most marshes are underlaid by a blanket or

a layer of relatively impervious silt, it is often feasible to construct

an impervious berm around the perimeter of the new site.  The berm should

be keyed to the underlying impervious silt layer and constructed higher

than the outside water level.  Another device is to build a mat to serve

as an operating platform for a dragline as well as the foundation for

        SOLID  WASTE
                                       FORMED Jf_RADE_
                                           TL  BORROW
     FIGURE k.  In the area method of
spread in thin layers, compacted, and
feet of compacted soil.
               covering a dump, wastes are
               covered with a minimum of 2

                                     FORMER _GRAD.t_
                                      gOIL  BORROW
                              is used to  close bank.(ype

the excavated solid waste that will finally be covered with soil  (Figure

6).  Relatively  inert materials such as  rocks, soil, broken concrete,

or demolition debris may be used for this purpose.

     Cover Material.  Cover material should be selected according to

its ability to perform the following functions:   (1) limit the access

of vermin to the solid waste;  (2)  control moisture entering the fill;

(3) control the  movement of gas from the decomposing waste; (A) provide

a  pleasing appearance and control  blowing paper;  (5) support vegetation.

     Not all soil  types perform these  functions equally well (Table 1).

While the soil  is  usually selected from  the types available nearby, con-

sideration needs to be given  to its suitability before using it as cover


     The depth of  the cover material depends on the use planned for the

closed  dump, as  well as the soil type.   Usually 2 feet of earth is suffi-

cient,  and  it should be compacted  and  graded.  Proper grading  is  important

since  it prevents  excessive soil erosion and ponding.  Ponding tends

to infiltrate and  saturate the fill, resulting in water pollution.

     To further  reduce erosion, the area should be seeded with grass

or other vegetation.  Two feet of  soil  is usually sufficient for  grass,

but more is necessary for shrubs and trees.  If the dump  is along a lake

front or the edge  of a stream, riprap  is often required to prevent water

from eroding the edge of the  cover material.

     Ultimate Use  of Closed Dump.  A closed dump  need not  remain  an un-

used parcel of wasteland.  The site may  have been changed from a  ravine

or gully to a relatively flat area.  It  is no  longer unsightly since

                            WETLAND DUMP
                INERT  FILL
                                          SOLID  WASTE
                  SOLID WASTE
                INERT FILL
                                                             __ ^
deposit above the  general water  evel
                                                    wate: quality
                                               elevate ^ waste

                                               TABLE 1

          Funct ion
                                                           General soil  type
                                    Clean     Clayey-siIty    Clean
                                    gravel       gravel       sand
                                 Clayey-s i Ity
Prevent rodents from burrowing
  or tunnel ing

Keep flies from emerging

Minimize moisture entering

Minimize landfill gas venting
  through cover

Provide pleasing appearance





     E, excellent; G, good; F, fair; P, poor.
     '^Except when cracks extend through the entire cover.
     "t"0nly  if well drained.








and control blowing paper
Support vegetation
Be permeable for venting
decomposition gas^







it is covered with soil and with grass and other vegetation.   It  is  al-

most inevitable that a high amount of uneven settlement wil.1 occur and

recognition of this fact should influence the ultimate use of  the site.

     In general, it is not advisable to construct buildings over a closed

dump because it makes a poor foundation.  Furthermore, gas from the  decom-

posing waste may accumulate in explosive cbncentrations in or beneath

buildings constructed on or adjacent to the fill.  Playgrounds, golf

courses, and similar recreational  facilities do not normally have to

support appreciable concentrated loads,  and converted dumps are often

used for these purposes, but they  still  require careful planning.   Main-

tenance costs may be greater for recreational  areas constructed on dumps

than on natural ground because of  excessive and irregular settling and

possible cracking of the cover material.

     The main objective of solid waste management should  be the safe

and economic disposal  of solid wastes,  and  the use of a completed  site

should not conflict with this  objective.

1.   The Solid Waste Disposal Act; Title II of Public Law 89-272, 89th
       Cong., S.306, October 20,  1965.  Washington, U.S. Government
       Printing Office, 1966.  5  p.

2.   National Association of Counties Research Foundation.  Citizen
       support for solid waste management.  [Cincinnati], U.S. Depart-
       ment of Health, Education, and Welfare, [1970].  20 p.  (Also
       published as chap. 8 of Public Health Service Publication
       No. 2084.   In press.)

3.   Sherman, E. J., and J. E. Brooks.  Roof rat elimination from a
       refuse disposal site before closure.  California Vector Views,
       13(2):14-15, Feb. 1966.

k.   Johnson, W. H., and B. F- Bjornson.  Rodent eradication and poisoning
       programs.  Atlanta, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and
       Welfare, 1964.  84 p.

5.   Mall is, A.  Handbook of pest control.  3d ed.  New York, Mac Nair-
       Dorland Company, I960.  p. 46.

6.   1970 National Communicable Disease Center report on public health
       pesticides.  Pest Control, 38(3):15 ... 54, Mar. 1970.

7.   Bjornson, B.  F-, H. D. Pratt, and K. S. Littig.  Control of domestic
       rats & mice.  Training Guide—Rodent Control Series.  Public
       Health Service Publication No. 563-  Washington, U.S. Government
       Printing Office, 1969-  41 p.

                               APPENDIX A


     A sanitary landfill can be designed and operated so that solid

wastes can be disposed on land under conditions that control odor,

rodents, insects,  and air and water pollution.1  In a sanitary land-

fill, solid waste is spread in thin layers, compacted to the smallest

practical volume,  and covered with earth every day of operation in a

manner that safeguards against environmental pollution.  No burning is

permitted.  When the site is completed, it can become a community asset--

a green area or a recreation facility,  for example.  Proper planning

before filling actually begins can mean maximum use of the completed

si te.

     Communities with limited space for sanitary landfilling should con-

sider processing to achieve volume reduction.  Incineration is a  controlled

combustion process used to reduce the volume of solid waste.2   When

properly designed, constructed, and operated, an incinerator can substan-

tially reduce the volume and weight of a community's solid,wastes without

damaging the environment.  Certain wastes are not processed through a

conventional incinerator because they are too large, would not burn suffi-

ciently  in the normal process time, or might damage or interfere with

the  incinerator mechanism.  These wastes, plus the residue from conventional

incineration, still require disposal on land in a sanitary manner.

     Composting is another alternative and involves processing of wastes

for  reuse as a soil conditioner-3  Although the economics of this process

in the United States have not been favorable, composting combined with

separation for recycling of certain noncompostable components of solid

waste may provide a useful waste treatment method.  The net cost to the

community depends on the availability of markets for the compost and

for the separated paper, metals, glass, and other salvaged materials.

Nonsalable residues of  the process must still be disposed of  in a sanitary

 1.    Sorg, T.  J.,  and  H.  L.  Hickman, Jr.  Sanitary  landfill facts.
        Public  Health Service Publication No.  1792.  Washington, U.S.
        Government  Printing Office,  1970.  30  p.

 2.    DeMarco,  J.,  D. J.  Keller,  J.  Leckman, and J.  L. Newton.   In-
        cinerator guidelines--1969.  Public Health Service Publication
        No. 2012.   Washington,  U.S.  Government Printing Office,  1969-
        98  p.

 3.    American  Public Works Association.  Municipal  refuse disposal.
        2d  ed.   chap. 9.   Chicago,  Public Administration Service,  1966.
        p.  279-315-