Buffers Protect North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Against Impacts of Solid Waste Landfill
Eleven National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) are located in North Carolina, comprising over 400,000 acres of habitat for our nation’s wildlife. Of those refuges, six are located within five miles of operational and closed landfills. Because multiple landfill sites lie in close proximity to NWRs we manage in the public trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has a keen interest in mechanisms to avoid, detect and minimize the potential adverse impacts of landfills to sensitive areas (and NWRs in particular). Our concern regarding the impacts of landfills on NWRs is longstanding and based on demonstrated impacts of landfill operations on North Carolina’s refuge resources. Studies dating back to 1989 conducted by the Service (Benkert 1989), the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (Effects from Dare County Landfills, 2000), and the U.S. Geological Survey (Winger et al. 2005) show impacts of landfill releases to canals that drain into Alligator River NWR. Prompted by growing public concerns regarding the environmental impacts of landfill siting in the State, the North Carolina General Assembly in 2006 initiated a moratorium on new landfill construction pending the results of a study they commissioned to assess siting, design and operational requirements for landfill in areas susceptible to flooding. The results of that study coupled with extensive stakeholder input resulted in adoption of landfill legislation in 2007 (Solid Waste Management Act, Senate Bill 1492) that, among other provisions, included additional standards for environmental protection including sensitive area buffers for NWRs (5 mile separation from outermost boundary), State gameland (1 mile) and State Parks (2 miles). Service technical input provided to State regulators in 2007 substantiates the need for a 5 miles protective buffer for NWRs. These buffers provide an appropriate safeguard, allowing maintenance of healthy habitats for wildlife and preservation of aesthetic quality of our refuges for public use and enjoyment. Given current renewed interest in solid waste management reform, we are again making our technical analysis of the benefits of landfill sensitive area buffers available.
Pollutants in landfills can harm plant, fish, and wildlife in North Carolina. Photo by OnslowCounty , NC
- FWS Letter to NC DENR (June 2013)
- FWS Landfill Siting Factsheet (May 2007)
- FWS letter to NC General Assembly (May 2007)
- Survey of Mercury and Other Metals in Fish and Sediments at East Lake Landfill and Alligator River NWR (Benkert 1989)
- FWS letter in response to Landfill Buffer FOIA (May 2008)
- Winger, P.V., P.J. Lasier and T. Augspurger. 2005. Potential impact of Dare County landfills on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 1: 267-282. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1897/2004-004R.1/pdf
Abstract: Runoff of leachate from East Lake and Dare County Construction and Demolition Debris landfills has the potential to impact wildlife resources at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina. Sediment quality of samples collected in August 2000 at 14 locations down-gradient from the landfills was assessed by measuring metal and organic contaminants in the sediments, chronic toxicity of solid-phase sediment (28-d static-renewal exposures; survival and growth as test endpoints) and acute toxicity of sediment porewater (96-h static exposures) to Hyalella azteca(Crustacea: Amphipoda). In addition, contaminant bioaccumulation from 4 sediments was determined using 28-d exposures of Lumbriculus variegatus (freshwater oligochaete). Although survival was not impaired, length of H. azteca was significantly reduced in sediments from 5 locations. Pore water from 4 locations was acutely toxic to H. azteca. Metals and a few polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were bioaccumulated by L. variegatus from the sediments. Several metals and PAHs exceeded sediment quality guidelines, and metals in porewater from several sites exceeded water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic wildlife. Runoff of leachate from the landfills has reduced sediment quality and has the potential to adversely affect wildlife resources at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
Recreation in North Carolina National Wildlife Refuge. Runoff from East Lake and Dare County Construction and Demolition landfills has the potential to impact wildlife at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.