Identification and assessment of landfill sites

The 1996 Waste Management Act provided for local authorities to identify sites within their jurisdictions at which waste disposal or recovery activities had been carried on, to assess any risk of environmental pollution and to identify remedial measures.

As well as municipal landfills, this included unregulated waste disposal sites. However, this requirement was generally not actioned as there was no national standard for the local authorities to follow in assessing risk and in identifying the necessary remediation works. That deficit was addressed in 2007 with the publication by the EPA of a code of practice for environmental risk assessment of unregulated waste disposal sites.

The legal obligations on local authorities for landfills were expanded in 2008.1 In addition to having to register sites they themselves had operated in the period between July 1977 and March 1997 (at which time the EPA became responsible for licensing and regulating landfill operations) and to carry out an environmental risk assessment, local authorities now had to make applications to the EPA for approval and authorisation of any proposed remediation works.

At July 2020, the total number of identified landfill sites was 611.

This included 117 sites licensed and regulated by the EPA since March 1997, and which it continues to monitor — consisting of 64 sites operated by local authorities and 53 operated privately.

494 unregulated sites registered by local authorities on a web-based register established by the EPA.

Over 70% of the sites are former local authority-operated landfills.

Around 21% were privately operated sites, while just over 8% were illegal dump sites.


Landfill sites on the Section 22 register, as at 31 December 2019

Assessment

The environmental risk assessment of the sites on the Section 22 register involves three progressive stages.

Tier 1 assessment — development of a conceptual site model and risk assessment — this allows for the categorisation of sites into low, moderate and high risk.
Tier 2 assessment — more detailed site investigations and testing.
Tier 3 assessment — refinement of the conceptual site model and completion of a quantitative risk assessment for all moderate and high risk sites.

On completion of the three-tier risk assessment process, local authorities are required to prepare remediation plans to address the risks identified for a site.

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