Land Clearing Debris

The CTDEEP's position/regulatory interpretation that Land Clearing Debris (stumps, & brush) historically placed on a site as Clean Fill, which was generated from site clearing operations at the site where the material was reused as clean fill, is considered an unacceptable historical practice (Illegal Dumping) requiring remediation in the form of :
  1. Removal from the site and disposal as a permitted bulky waste facility, 
  2. Placement of an ELUR designating the site area as a bulky waste disposal area, or
  3. Submission of a permit application  to the CTDEEP for a historical bulky waste disposal site permit.
needs to be addressed in the new proposed regulation.   The classification of these site specific areas as "bulky waste" disposal areas requiring remediation by the current property owner is inconsistent with the following:

1) Information contained in  Bulky Waste and Special Waste Task Force Report prepared by the CTDEEP in 1996 as reproduced below: 
  •  Although burning, burying, and landfilling landclearing debris is legal with certain limitations, the DEP strongly     encourages reuse. By law the state must encourage reuse over resource recovery (CGS § 22a-228). Landclearing debris has excellent reuse potential because it is mostly clean wood.In its draft solid waste management plan for 1996, the DEP plans to restrict the burning and landfilling of landclearing debris except after natural disasters.
In the document, the department clearly states that it is aware of current onsite management practices including onsite burial and the extent to which these activities occur;
  • Landclearing debris consists of trees, stumps, branches and other clean wood. Landclearing debris is currently defined as bulky waste. According to DEP approximately two-thirds of all landclearing debris is chipped, burned, or buried on the site where it was generated and the rest is disposed of at bulky waste and MSW landfills or dumped illegally.
2) Evolving best management practices for the reuse of land clearing debris onsite in the form of mulch, erosion control, or bulking agents (see discussion below). 

The CTDEEP requirement for the remediation of these historical areas as noted above needs to be clearly addressed in the new regulation and open to public comment. The regulation needs to include scientific data that supports the department position that: 
  • The onsite burial (reuse) of a limited amount of stumps and brush (the quantity of which can easily be defined and controlled as the amount generated during the clearing of a single property and subsequently concentrated into berms, ravines and other site features) represents a recognized environmental condition which poses an unreasonable risk to the environment . 
  • Is consistent with the CTDEEP stated mission of pollution prevention across all media (air, soil, water). 
At a minimum, the proposed regulations should establish a reasonable date prior to which land clearing debris (stumps and brush), generated from site clearing operations and placed at the site where the clearing occurred, is exempt from designation as a bulky waste disposal site provided:
  • It is reasonably clear the material was generated from land clearing operations at the subject site, and 
  • The activity was permitted with a local permitting agency at the time of placement. 
 These provisions satisfy the intent of the law and demonstrate reasonable compliance efforts by the party placing the material on the site to obtain all known approvals at the time of placement.  They also recognize and eliminate the regulatory penalty to an owner that chose the more environmentally responsible option, reuse as opposed to open burning, at the time of development.  

Evolving Best Management Practices (BMP's) for the Onsite Use of Land Clearing Debris (Stumps and Brush) Generated During Land Clearing Operations 

The use of land clearing debris to establish final site grades for portions of a site where no buildings or paved surfaces are proposed or as the base for site screening features such as mounds or berms (with or without tree plantings) is a long standing historical environmentally acceptable solution for the reuse and recycling of land clearing debris generated at a site where it is used.  This BMP takes into account the environmental impact of land clearing debris management practices for all media (air, water, soil). 

Over the past decade, land clearing debris management practices have clearly evolved.  New or improved management options include:    
  • Permitted offsite disposal facilities 
  • Permitted offsite recycling in the form of mulch production
  • Onsite recycling in the form of mulch or firewood production
These options represent a clear and superior alternative to uncontrolled onsite burning, which was historically widely used, due to its low cost structure, for the management of land clearing debris that could not be managed onsite (either due to space constraints or site development preferences).  

However, each of these evolving land clearing debris management solutions, while superior to open burning, requires the use of an internal combustion engine.   The engines are used for material processing, and/or transportation to offsite processing locations.   Criteria and Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) emission factors for the operation of internal combustion powered equipment are widely published.  The type of known pollutants include;
  • Metals, 
  • PAH's, 
  • CO, 
  • CO2, 
  • VOC's, and 
  • PM
Emissions from these units are generally expressed as lbs of pollutant/mmBTU or mg of pollutant/kg of fuel burned.  Air Emissions from combustion engines are significantly higher (by orders of magnitude) and more universally accepted as a known quantity, than leachate concentrations associated with stumps and trees buried at the site where they were generated.   Of course, the leachate still remains a concern as the processed or relocated wood products still exists as either:  

  • Mulch with significantly higher exposed surface area or 
  • In the more concentrated form at a permitted landfill that likely exposes the material to more acidic leachate
CTDEEP air permitting group has extensive knowledge of these emission factors and routinely uses them in the permitting and enforcement of air regulations. Permits issued by the department control emissions from stump crushers and grinders for this reason.

In summary, based on a review of the available data accros all environmental media and the CTDEEP's Waste Management Division's evolving position on land clearing debris management practices, the proposed regulation (theme and intent) would seem to be an appropriate time and place to clarify, the department's position on the management of land clearing debris as it pertains to the following:  
  • Present data that clearly shows that the burial of land clearing debris (stumps and brush)  from any activity on the site from which it is generated has in the past or would be expected in the future to represent an unacceptable risk.  
  • Break the connection between the deposition of stumps and bush generated during site clearing activities, and the importation of stumps and brush from offsite sources.  The latter of which can clearly concentrate these materials at single locations in quantities that could cause a concern.  
  • Include additional controls if required to limit onsite stump and bush reuse activities activities to only materials generated with in the limits of permitted grading activities contained on permitted site drawings. 
  • Present data to show that the use of land clearing debris generated at a site and used for fill or berms at the same site in areas where no building or road features are proposed does not meet the definition of Beneficial Use.  This material replaces the importation of other bulk products that would be transported to the site at a higher cost to the site owner, results in additional truck traffic on congested roads, and result in additional pollution from the exhaust of transport vehicles.