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Water: Landfills

Effluent Guidelines: Landfills Point Source Category

Final Effluent Limitations Guidelines

EPA-821-F-99-016; December 1999

EPA is publishing the final Effluent Limitations Guidelines, Pretreatment Standards, and New Source Performance Standards for the Landfills Point Source Category. This final regulation establishes technology-based effluent limitations for wastewater discharged to navigable waters from the operation of new and existing landfill facilities. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)establishes disposal criteria and operation and design standards for landfills. However, RCRA regulations do not address the discharge of landfill wastewater to surface waters or to publicly owned wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, EPA is setting effluent guidelines under the Clean Water Act for this industry to limit the amount of pollutants discharged into our nation's waters.


A landfill is an area of land or an excavation in which wastes are placed for permanent disposal. RCRA regulations require landfill operators to collect the leachate produced by the landfill. Landfill operators collect the landfill-generated wastewater and discharge it either directly into a body of water or to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

Scope of Final Regulation

This final effluent guideline regulation only applies to landfills that discharge wastewater directly into receiving waters. It does not apply to landfills that discharge wastewater into a publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Based on comments on the proposed rule and further analysis by EPA, the Agency concluded that national pretreatment standards are not necessary for landfills. EPA found that POTWs adequately treated pollutants in landfill wastewater, and only a very small quantity of pollutant loads discharged by landfills to POTWs are further discharged to rivers, streams or estuaries. Furthermore, EPA concluded that wastewater discharges from landfills do not cause operational problems (such as biological inhibition or sludge contamination) for POTWs.

Also, this regulation generally does not apply to captive landfills located at industrial facilities (e.g., organic chemical manufacturing plants, pulp and paper mills, or oil refineries) since wastewater produced from many of these facilities is already regulated by an effluent guideline or pretreatment standard for that industry.

For non-hazardous landfills, the wastewater treatment technologies that EPA used as the basis for the effluent limitations included equalization, activated sludge biological treatment, and multimedia filtration. For hazardous landfills, the wastewater treatment technologies included equalization, chemical precipitation, activated sludge biological treatment, and multimedia filtration. Landfills may choose the technology best-suited for their site so long as the wastewater discharged from their facility meets the effluent limits set by this regulation.

Environmental Benefits

This final rule provides increased protection to human health and aquatic life by reducing discharges of pollutants by over 900 thousand pounds per year. In particular, these limitations will greatly reduce the amount of ammonia, toxic organic constituents, and metals discharged from landfills.

Cost to Implement

EPA estimates that the total annualized cost of the rule would be $8 million (in $1998), which EPA has determined to be economically achievable. EPA did not identify any small businesses which would be impacted by this regulation.

Additional Information

For additional information concerning this rule, contact the landfills program manager.

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