United States Office of the
Environmental Protection Administrator
Agency [Mail Code 1802]
Project XL: Buncombe
County Landfill
September 2000
Project XL, which stands for "excellence and Leadership," is a national initiative that
tests innovative ways of achieving better and more cost-effective public health and
environmental protection. The information and lessons learned from Project XL are
being used to assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in redesigning
its current regulatory and policy-setting approaches. Project XL encourages testing of
cleaner, cheaper, and smarter ways to attain environmental results superior to those
achieved under current regulations and policies, in conjunction with greater
accountability to stakeholders. It is vital that each project tests new ideas with the
potential for wide application and broad environmental benefits. As of September
2000, over thirty pilot experiments are being implemented and several additional
projects are in various stages of development.

The Buncombe County Solid Waste Management Facility (BCSWMF). located in the
western part of North Carolina, is one of the ten largest publicly-owned municipal solid
waste landfills in the state. It accepts approximately 250,000 tons of municipal solid
waste per year, including construction and demolition wastes. Through this XL project,
Buncombe County proposes to implement a new bioreactor landfill system that
involves constructing an alternative liner system and recirculating landfill leachate. In a
bioreactor landfill, controlled quantities of liquids are added and circulated through
waste to accelerate the natural biodegradation rate of waste and therefore decrease
the waste  stabilization and composting time compared to a conventional landfill.
Implementing this innovative system will decrease emissions of landfill gas, accelerate
waste decomposition, improve leachate quality, and increase the waste capacity of the
existing  landfill.  Buncombe County believes that the results of this project could lead
EPA to revise existing Resource Conservation and Recovery  Act (RCRA) regulations
and allow  or promote the use of alternative liner systems in municipal solid waste
landfills using leachate recirculation. This XL project, EPA's 34'". was signed on
September  18, 2000.

When implemented, the leachate recirculation/gas recovery system will provide
superior environmental performance in a number of ways:

  Acceleration of waste decomposition, which should enhance groundwater
   Early compliance with Clean Air Act requirements for municipal solid waste
   landfills through  installation of a gas collection and control system;
  Reduction of potential risk to workers and the community  from transport of
   collected leachate to publicly owned treatment facilities via tanker trucks;
  Improved leachate quality and, ultimately, improved quality of water discharged to
   the receiving streams;
  Reinvestment of cost savings in pilot projects to enhance  integrated solid waste
   management  practices;
  Additional waste capacity and longer life for the existing landfill, reducing the need
   for new landfills sites;
  Generation of large-scale operational data to evaluate the horizontal trench design
   for leachate re-circulation/gas recovery landfills; and
  Identification and quantification of performance advantages or limitations of the

EPA's RCRA Subtitle D regulations currently allow municipal solid waste landfill
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leachateto be recirculated back into the landfill if: 1) the landfill is designed with the
standard composite,liner; and 2) the leachate collection system is made to regulatory
specifications. Buncombe County seeks flexibility from these RCRA regulations to
allow them to recirculate leachate through municipal solid waste landfills constructed
with an alternative liner system. Modeling shows that when different portions of the
landfill are compared, the alternative liner offers 50 percent more protection to the
underlying aquifierthan the standard composite liner.

Stakeholder involvement is essential for the success of this innovative environmental
program. Stakeholder input will help to further develop the project specifics and
evaluate performance. Public meetings have been held to inform the general public
and national environmental groups about the project and to invite their comments and
participation. Stakeholders likely to be directly involved with this project include: the
State of North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who will
be responsible for permitting the project; Buncombe County's Environmental Affairs
Board, which is comprised of county citizens; and a group of citizens that reside in the
landfill's surrounding neighborhood, including the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense
League. Additional public meetings may be held during implementation of the
agreement based on public interest or as decided by the direct participants.
Stakeholder input and community goals have been and will  continue to be considered
throughout project implementation.

  Will  an alternate landfill liner provide a superior level of protection as compared to
   the standard composite landfill liner required in current regulations?
  Will  the leachate recirculation approach result in fewer fugitive air emissions?
   Will  the alternative approach and  its safeguards, as proposed by Buncombe
   County, provide superior performance in preventing leachate contamination?
EPA Region 4:
EPA  Headquarters:
Buncombe  County:
Michelle Cook
Sherri Walker
Bob  Hunter
Dexter Matthews
(404)  562.8674
(202)  260-4295
(828) 250-5466
(919)733-0692, ext. 256
More information about this XL project, or the Project XL Program, is available on the
Internet at http://www.epa.gov/proiectxl under "Information on Specific XL Projects." or
via Project XL's Information Line at (202) 260-5754.
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