EPA Finds Evidence of Hazardous Waste in Contained Landfill Fire

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has contained and smothered a landfill fire on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota. The landfill is located 13 miles south of Red Shirt along BIA Highway 41.

When EPA responders arrived on site June 12, the fire had burned approximately 80 percent, or five acres, of the landfill.  EPA observed evidence of household hazardous waste, including pesticide containers, paint cans and small drums, throughout the burn zone.  Responders also witnessed a noxious plume of smoke drifting across the nearby highway.  Initial air monitor measurements taken June 13 indicated elevated levels of particulates, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide, and decreased levels of oxygen. Due to the unconsolidated nature of the waste in the landfill and the intensity of the fire, EPA determined the fire would likely burn for months if not addressed.

As part of the response, a borrow pit was established south of the current landfill in an area that had been designated for future expansion. Solid waste in the existing cell was excavated, placed and compacted in appropriate lifts within the cell, and covered with soil to smother the fire.  EPA is now working on bolstering the cover over the landfill and making sure there are no hot spots that could reignite. Unburned trash is being managed to ensure it will not reignite.

The landfill is a Subtitle D solid waste facility that services 11 transfer stations and is the sole landfill for the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The landfill receives approximately 30-50 tons of solid waste daily and serves approximately 30,000 people, including the communities of Pine Ridge and Kyle. 

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