Related Resource

Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Waste Containment Barriers (May 2007)

Report in Brief

President Carter's 1980 declaration of a state of emergency at Love Canal, New York recognized that residents' health had been affected by nearby chemical waste sites. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, enacted in 1976, had just ushered in a new era of waste management disposal designed to protect the public from harm. It required that modern waste containment systems use "engineered" barriers designed to isolate hazardous and toxic wastes and prevent them from seeping into the environment. These containment systems are now employed at thousands of waste sites around the United States, and their effectiveness must be continually monitored. At the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this National Research Council report assesses the performance of waste containment barriers to date. Existing data suggest that waste containment systems with liners and covers, when constructed and maintained in accordance with current regulations, are performing well thus far. However, they have not been in existence long enough to assess long-term (postclosure) performance, which may extend for hundreds of years. The report recommends expansion of data collection and reporting, improvement of models, and development of new monitoring techniques to improve future assessments and increase confidence in predictions of barrier system performance.