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Control of a landfill

Landfill sites are inspected every one to three years using a risk-based control plan. The site’s risk classification, that is, the control frequency, may be changed if deficiencies are observed during the inspection. However, if the site has been managed particularly well, the risk classification may be lowered by one. The inspections carry a fee, which is determined in accordance with the decree on chargeable fees and depends on the size of the site. The fees are used to pay for the resources required for control. During scheduled regular inspections, the site’s environmental permit or permits are reviewed, the operations are checked to ensure their continued compliance with the permit, and a review is carried out to determine whether any disturbances have occurred in operations or any public complaints have been filed concerning the operations. The operator also gets the opportunity to discuss topical matters. If required, the supervisor provides guidance in questions concerning permits and control.

The regular inspection includes a review of documents, including surveillance reports, previous memoranda and any recommendations or requests. During the tour of the site, attention is focused on, for example, general tidiness, the integrity of structures and the water treatment and diversion structures, as well as the storage of chemicals and liquid fuels. The site’s filling is monitored to ensure that it remains within the limits defined in the permit and that open surfaces are not excessive. If changes occur in operations, an amendment must be sought for the permit. Under law, changes must be notified in advance to ensure that any need for permit amendments can be assessed.

A memorandum is drawn up of the inspection, detailing the matters reviewed, as well as any corrective measures and the schedule for implementing them. The operator may be required to carry out measures or conduct surveys to ensure that the matter to be rectified complies with the permit or legislation or to obtain enough information indicating that the matter has been taken care of. If a deficiency has not been rectified by the deadline, the operator will be served a request, which will ultimately lead to a fine or a notice of enforced compliance if the operator still fails to rectify the matter. In cases that have caused or may have caused environmental pollution or a risk of it, a request for investigation will be filed with the police.

In addition to regular inspections, the supervisor reviews the annual report, which is submitted once a year and includes a summary of, for example, the water monitoring results (emissions and impact monitoring), the amount and types of incoming, treated, dumped and delivered waste, as well as any other results, such as those of odour control. Monitoring is carried out in accordance with the provisions in the environmental permit, and the supervisor ensures that appropriate reports on operations have been filed and that the amounts remain within the limits specified in the permit. The monitoring provisions usually indicate the frequency of monitoring, measurement methods and the assessment and delivery of results. Limits may also be specified in the provisions. The inspection of annual reports also carries a fee, which is based on the decree on chargeable fees and depends on the size of the site.

Photo: Periodic inspection at the Sammalsuo landfill


Water monitoring follows concentrations in outgoing water, as well as loading and long-term results, which makes it easier to detect any deviations. If the site has its own water treatment system, the results can be used to examine its purification efficiency. If water is let out into the surroundings, results from above and below the landfill site are compared to assess the impacts on waterways. As for groundwater, comparisons are made between higher and lower points in the direction of the flow. Results of water monitoring within the landfill site can be used to follow the stage of waste decomposition. Observations of the storage situation help ensure that the site’s receiving and processing capacity has been properly planned and that the received, processed and stored volumes remain within the limits specified in the environmental permit. The effective capacity and elevation of the landfill are monitored to ensure compliance with the limits specified in the permit. The reported waste and emissions data are public.

Photo: Leachate basin of Kääpäkä closed landfill


Operators are required to be aware of the environmental impacts of their operations and of ways to reduce adverse effects. In addition to the inspections carried out by the authorities, landfill sites conduct their own inspections in accordance with their self-monitoring plan, which can include, for example, settlement measurements, audits of accounting and waste types, as well as the recording of personnel training. A separate filling plan must also be made for the landfill site, and operations must be carried out according to it. The filling plan presents a schedule and the order and method of filling, covering and compacting the site. It also details the locations of road connections and dumping areas at different stages of the filling process. Various environmental management systems may also require different forms of control and monitoring methods.

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