Possibility for temporary landfill monitoring arrangements during COVID-19

Wiser Environment understands that the Environment Agency will take a pragmatic approach to landfill monitoring compliance whilst the COVID-19 restrictions are in force. Government advice is to cease unnecessary travel which may impact on the ability of operators to conduct monitoring activities. A temporary reduction in compliance will be agreed on a case by case basis, and Wiser Environment urges operators to confirm with the Agency.

Landfill monitoring guidance

It is commonplace for landfill operators to conduct compulsory environmental monitoring. In a risk-based approach, landfill operators analyse and review the impact their site has on the environment. This may include monitoring of potential leachate and gas emissions to groundwater, surface water, land and atmosphere. These measures assist in mitigating the polluting elements of landfilling activities.

Article 1 of the Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC states:
“…by way of stringent operational and technical requirements on the waste and landfills, to provide for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill.

These controls exist to demonstrate that the landfill is performing as intended. As monitoring is a requirement throughout the landfill’s lifecycle, it also forms a part of a permit surrender process; signalling when a site no longer presents a significant risk of pollution.

Compliance challenges

The core of the Government’s strategy to combat COVID-19 is to avoid all unnecessary gatherings and work from home where possible. As seen with technical competence,  the Government’s advice creates additional environmental compliance challenges. Wiser has made informal enquiries during which the Environment Agency has acknowledged these complications; outlining a need to contact them to request alternative landfill monitoring arrangements.

Our understanding is that sites with a positive compliance history will be looked upon more favourably, on a case by case basis. Broadly speaking, these sites may have the opportunity to defer their borehole monitoring and propose temporary alternative arrangements. Importantly, sites with critical infrastructure or poor compliance history may still need active management.

No matter how long or impactful the COVID-19 outbreak is, Wiser Environment will still be here to help businesses prosper. If you would like to discuss how temporary landfill monitoring arrangements could affect your business, then contact us.