Most ash generated by waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in the U.S. is landfilled. Studies undertaken in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s indicated no significant environmental concerns associated with ash landfilling. However, in 2001, policy-makers at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) became concerned that the “cumulative” impacts of landfills, including ash landfills, might pose a risk to human health. To address this concern, we performed an in-depth assessment of impacts to air quality, and theoretical risks to health, from fugitive emissions associated with an ash landfill. Nine sources of fugitive ash emissions were modeled using methods that coupled detailed information about the site operations, ash properties, and meteorological conditions on an hour-by-hour basis. The results of these assessments, combined with ambient air data collected by others, demonstrated that the impacts from fugitive emissions of the ash were no more than negligible. Accordingly, in 2006, MA DEP revised its policy, exempting ash disposal landfills from the requirement to demonstrate no significant impact, effectively granting presumptive certainty to ash landfills that employ best management practices. Detailed analyses such as described herein, combined with robust data sets, can form the basis of more efficient regulatory policies.

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