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When trash is picked up from your home it is taken to a landfill. If you live in the arid western part of the state you probably have a small county landfill. If you live in eastern Kansas, which has more rain and many large urban communities, you will have a large regional landfill that has to comply with strict environmental regulations to reduce stormwater runoff and leaching into the river. These “Subtitle D” landfills are shown on the atlas. Generally speaking, landfills are structures that are built either on top of the ground or dug into the ground, and are isolated from the surrounding groundwater, air, and stormwater runoff with an impermeable bottom layer and a daily covering with soil. Older landfills and closed landfills near the river may still cause problems, because they were built before modern regulations and need to be carefully monitored.

Years ago every town and city had its own “dump”. The 1,000 or so different dumping sites in the state of Kansas were loosely managed. They accepted a broad range of solid wastes with little or no restrictions, and many of them lacked any kind of seal or liner to prevent pollution from seeping into the groundwater below them. Because there were few restrictions on where you could put a landfill, town dumps were often located in low areas or along river channels. In the 1970s, counties were given new statutory responsibility that required them to make sure that their solid wastes were properly managed according to modern environmental laws and many local dumps were closed. These closed landfills are monitored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and pose a potential risk to any stream or river nearby. One such example is the old Lawrence landfill, five miles up river from the Bowersock Dam.

Solid waste can be drastically reduced through recycling, composting yard waste, and other measures such as reduction and reuse; many municipalities have facilities for reducing solid waste (see the “more links” section below). One good way of reducing pollution in the Kansas River is to properly dispose of household hazardous waste (don’t pour it down the drain!) and reduce the amount of solid waste that has to be hauled to landfills.

Solid Waste Management has become a lot more complicated since the days of the town dump. In the year 2000 there was over 2.7 million tons of waste deposited in Kansas landfills. Because of the potential for hazardous chemicals to leak out of a landfill into ground water and rivers, landfills today are carefully sited and regulated. In Kansas, the Bureau of Waste Management (BWM) is responsible for issuing permits, inspecting, and enforcing regulations at all solid and hazardous waste management facilities. The number of different types of facilities have also increased since the days of the all purpose town dump; we now have different types of landfills (for example Subtitle D Landfills), hazardous or solid waste combustors, community composting, recycling centers, hazardous waste storage facilities, transfer stations, household hazardous waste facilities, and waste tire processors.

Although most counties in the arid western part Kansas have their own landfill, in densely populated areas such as Kansas City and Johnson County, and in eastern Kansas where there is more stormwater run-off, there are a few large specially constructed landfills that serve large regions. Since 1993, all municipal solid waste landfills must comply with Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). These landfills are commonly referred to as “Subtitle D landfills” or municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills and their locations are mapped in the River Atlas.

Many counties in Kansas send some or all of their municipal waste to a landfill in another county.  A map illustrating solid waste flows in Kansas can be found here.

View River Inventory Landfills in a larger map

Small landfills in the arid western regions of Kansas are exempt from compliance with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subtitle D standards for liner and leachate collection. These vary a great deal in their construction and the impact they have on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes minimum standards for disposal of these wastes and provides state/ local agencies and the general public with guidance and information.

In 2004-2005KDHE reported that:

  • More than 550,000 tons of municipal solid waste was expected to be recycled in Kansas’ 1,600-plus recycling centers.
  • More than 170,000 tons of organic waste was turned into compost from material that would otherwise have gone to landfills.
  • 3.5 million pounds of household hazardous waste material was collected by local programs and more than 500,000 pounds of it was reused.
  • An ‘e-waste’ collection pilot program in just three Kansas counties produced more than 53 tons of discarded electronic material. Almost 99 percent of this material was recycled and kept out of our landfills. Several new businesses have formed within the past couple years to help Kansans properly manage e- waste.

There are many types of recycling programs all over Kansas– to find one near you go to the map and guide by clicking here.