Landfills: Fact vs Fiction

There are many myths floating around about landfills these days, particularly surrounding the only lined landfill operating in Vermont. As we make plans for the future of Vermont’s waste, it’s important that our decisions are based on facts and not fiction. Below are a few examples of some of the myths about the landfill:

Myth #1: The lined landfill is leaking or all landfills leak”  – Fiction. There is no evidence or indication that the liner system is leaking or will leak. Landfill liners are designed as redundant protection systems with multiple points of monitoring to detect leaks before any release reaches the environment. Groundwater monitoring wells are located at varying depths and locations around the landfill, some are in close proximity to the lined cells and they are sampled to monitor for all the chemicals we find in the landfills leachate. There is no indication that any of the chemicals are exiting the base of the landfill and into the environment. Groundwater reports detailing the groundwater condition at the site are public documents and can be found on the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Website at What is found in the groundwater at the site in one specific area is an indication of groundwater impact from the existing unlined landfill. Like all unlined landfills in the State of its age and size, groundwater contamination does exist and is monitored closely twice per year. The contamination is confined to close proximity to the edge of the unlined landfill and is not migrating off the site.

Myth #2: “Landfill leachate is toxic”  – Fiction. While none of us are in a hurray to grab a cup of leachate and drink it, the leachate is not toxic and is permitted to be treated at Vermont (New Hampshire and New York as well) wastewater treatment facilities before it is released to the environment, just like municipal waste water. The leachate is tested and analyzed regularly for a variety of constituents – none of the parameters exceed the Toxicity characteristics in the Vermont Hazardous Waste Management Regulations. If any of the parameters were to exceed, the leachate would have to be managed as a hazardous waste and could not be accepted at a wastewater treatment facility or other provisions would have to be considered.

Myth #3: The landfill is surrounded by wetlands and is contaminating the Black River” – Fiction. The landfill is not surrounded by wetlands and there is no evidence that the landfill is contaminating the Black River. The Black River is routinely sampled and has never shown an indication of landfill impacts from the lined or the unlined landfill. The facility conducts an annual canoe trip along the Black River accompanied by a wildlife biologist and hydrogeologist and have never observed landfill impacts. What has been observed during this trip are beavers, muskrats, ducks, geese, turtles, and a variety of birds all living well and thriving along the Black River.