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Landfill operators are required to progressively rehabilitate their sites, as each cell is full, until the whole site is closed and fully rehabilitated. Victoria’s environmental audit and planning processes require proposed developments to be carefully considered against specific risks posed by closed landfills – to determine if the development site is suitable for the proposed use and, if not, what controls/steps would be required (for example sub-floor venting structures or landfill gas barriers) to make the site suitable for the proposed development.

Many fully rehabilitated closed landfill sites are used as parks, playgrounds, golf courses, resource recovery centres or other facilities.

The Victorian Landfill Register is a listing of current and known closed landfills in Victoria.

Environmental risks of closed landfills

The environmental risks posed by landfill sites continue for a significant period of time after waste acceptance has ceased. These risks can be posed by:

  • leachate, a liquid formed by rainwater and decomposing waste, is likely to contaminate groundwater, stormwater or surface waters if not managed appropriately
  • landfill gas, formed during the decomposition of waste, if not managed is likely to migrate into the surrounding ground and atmosphere, creating an environmental hazard and causing odours
  • inappropriate or incomplete capping will cause the infiltration of rainwater to generate large volumes of leachate and allow landfill gas to escape to the atmosphere, and
  • a lack of appropriate ongoing aftercare management, maintenance, monitoring and reporting, which prevents the appropriate assessment of risk.

Management of closed landfills

In order to ensure that the risks are appropriately quantified and managed, occupiers of closed landfill sites are issued with pollution abatement notices that require the closed landfill to be managed so there are no unacceptable risks to the environment. These are referred to as post closure pollution abatement notices (PC PANs) for licensed landfills.

Although the use of PC PANs as the statutory tool to manage the risks from closed landfills is not a new tool – they have been used for over 25 years – EPA has made some changes to the key requirements used in this tool. The most important changes have been to the assurance provided by the role of EPA-appointed environmental auditors independently verifying the various plans, monitoring programs and the undertaking of regular environmental audits. There have also been changes to the types of plans and reports to be provided to EPA before a PC PAN is issued – including hydrogeological assessments.

The process of issuing a PC PAN commences with preparation of various plans and assessments for the landfill, some of which may have already been prepared through EPA licence conditions. EPA requires the landfill owner to develop rehabilitation plans, aftercare management and monitoring programs. A hydrogeological assessment is also required, if one has not already been completed or updated within the last four years. Following the completion or updating of these plans and documents, PC PANs are issued that require the implementation of these specific plans and programs, along with regular reporting to EPA and the independent environmental auditing of the closed landfill at a frequency appropriate to the risks posed by the site.

The implementation of PC PANs for licensed landfills across Victoria is continuing to be undertaken in stages. Owners of recently closed landfills wishing to surrender their licence are included in the first stage along with other higher risk sites. Landfills that are already closed and have an existing PC PAN will require re-assessment of their environmental risks to determine if the new PC PANs are required to manage their ongoing environmental risks.

EPA’s Closed landfill guidelines (publication 1490) provides further information on this process.

The guidelines were updated in January 2018, and include the following important changes:

  • revised financial assurance requirements and guidance instructions (See LC.7)
  • updates to annual compliance statement requirements and guidance (See LC.13).

EPA and closed landfills

Landfills are assessed in accordance with EPA guidance Assessing planning proposals within the buffer of a landfill (publication 1642).

All operators of licensed landfill sites, and owners of closed landfill sites that are regulated by EPA via a Post Closure Pollution Abatement Notice (PC PAN), must manage landfill gas and leachate to minimise impacts to the environment and human health. They must also undertake a landfill gas risk assessment, put in place an environmental monitoring program verified by an EPA-appointed environmental auditor and have regular environmental audits. Operators and owners are required to implement audit recommendations through the issuing of an enforcement notice, to ensure risks are kept at an acceptably low level. The requirements for these risk assessments are set out in the guideline Best practice environmental management – Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (publication 788). 

EPA regional staff are aware of smaller landfills below the licensing threshold (landfills exempt from licensing) in their regions and may inspect these sites. Field staff will only issue a Pollution Abatement Notice (PAN) if there is a risk posed by the site. EPA supports councils to identify and understand landfill risks in their municipalities with the local council self-assessment tool for closed landfill environmental risk.

Living on the site of a closed landfill

Landfill operators are required to plan for and complete rehabilitation of landfill sites after they are closed.

Community concerns are sometimes raised in relation to old closed landfills where housing development has subsequently taken place. Such sites may predate landfill regulation. Due to the large variability in wastes types, and landfill operation and design, it is not possible to give definitive advice on the health risks of such landfills without a risk assessment specific to that landfill. Where a landfill site is causing local concern, site-specific monitoring and/or modelling is needed to aid any risk assessment and address any uncertainty about potential public health impacts.

Read next

About landfills

Landfills and the environment

Landfills and EPA's role

Victorian Landfill Register

Hazardous waste (PIW) in landfills

Landfill guidance for operators and councils


This page was copied from EPA's old website. It was last updated on 22 January 2018.

Reviewed 18 September 2020