How to Participate in MassDEP Solid Waste Permitting Decisions

MassDEP seeks input from the public - including individuals, communities, and groups - before it issues certain types of solid waste management permits or approvals.

Either when a proponent applies for a solid waste management permit or approval, or before MassDEP makes a final decision, the agency accepts public comment on the proposal for a specific period of time. In some cases, MassDEP also schedules a public hearing or meeting so it can provide additional project information and/or receive public feedback. Learn more:

Facility Siting, Construction and Operation

Facility Closure and Reuse

Waste Determinations and Demonstrations

The information on this page is intended to help you understand how and when you can be part of the review and decision-making process. Also see: MassDEP Public Hearings & Comment Opportunities and Levels of MassDEP Oversight

Facility Siting, Construction and Operation

Permit Category & Explanation:

Solid Waste Management Site Suitability Report

Anyone proposing to build a new solid waste landfill, combustion facility or transfer station is required to submit a site suitability report to MassDEP, which reviews the report to determine whether the parcel of land meets specific criteria for use as the site for a solid waste management facility. The agency forwards its findings to the local Board of Health, which then must decide whether or not to issue a Site Assignment for the facility being proposed. MassDEP must also provide the Board of Health with a site suitability determination when the expansion of an existing facility will require a major modification of its Site Assignment. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
21 days None is required by MassDEP, but the local Board of Health is required to hold a public hearing before approving or denying a Site Assignment for the proposed facility.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Construct a New or Expanded Solid Waste Management Facility

Anyone proposing to build or expand a solid waste landfill, combustion facility or handling facility must obtain a valid Site Assignment from the local Board of Health, then apply for a MassDEP permit before proceeding with construction. The agency reviews the proposal and sets conditions for construction to ensure that the new or expanded solid waste management facility is designed and built in a way that will not cause air, land and water pollution, or nuisance conditions. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
At least 30 days MassDEP is required to hold a public hearing on its draft decision if the applicant requests one. Otherwise, a hearing is scheduled at agency discretion and may be requested through the appropriate regional office.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Operate an Existing Solid Waste Management Facility

Anyone proposing to operate a new or expanded solid waste landfill, combustion facility or handling facility is required to apply for a MassDEP permit before starting operation. The agency reviews the proposal and sets conditions for operation of the facility to ensure that it is built and will operate in a way that will not cause air, land and water pollution, or nuisance conditions. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
Not required, but MassDEP may issue provisional approval with a deferred effective date to allow for 21-day public notice/comment period. None.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Solid Waste Management Facility Modifications

The operator of an approved landfill, combustion facility, transfer station that accepts more than 50 tons per day of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, or handling facility that is not a transfer station may make changes to the facility only if MassDEP specifically authorizes them. These changes may include modification of design plans, construction, facility operation and maintenance, or corrective actions. MassDEP reviews the proposed modifications and sets conditions to ensure that they will not cause air, land or water pollution, or nuisance conditions. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
None for minor modifications, such as administrative or minor equipment changes. MassDEP may issue provisional approval of other, more significant modifications with a deferred effective date to allow for 21-day public notice/comment period. None.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Recycling, Composting or Conversion Operation Permit, Modification or Renewal

Anyone proposing to build or modify a large and/or complex recycling, composting or conversion operation – or to continue operating a facility of this type that was approved by MassDEP before November 23, 2012 – must apply for this permit. The agency determines whether the operation meets specific criteria, and if so, sets conditions to ensure that it that will not cause air, land or water pollution, or nuisance conditions. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
30 days MassDEP is required to hold a public hearing on its draft decision if the applicant requests one. Otherwise, a hearing is scheduled at agency discretion and may be requested through the appropriate regional office.

Additional Resources for Facility Siting, Construction and Operation

Facility Closure and Reuse

Permit Category & Explanation:

Landfill Assessment & Closure

Before permanently closing a solid waste landfill, the operator of the facility must take a series of steps, which include assessing the landfill’s past uses, monitoring groundwater, sampling air quality and soil, evaluating closure alternatives, designing the final cap, and planning any additional cleanup that may be needed. MassDEP reviews data and reports throughout this process to ensure that the proposed landfill closure technology, design and implementation will remediate the site and prevent the spread of contamination. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
Not required, but MassDEP may issue provisional approval with a deferred effective date to allow for 21-day comment period. Public information meetings are scheduled at MassDEP discretion and may be requested through the appropriate regional office.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Landfill Post-Closure Use Permit

Before building a structure, installing equipment or establishing passive recreation facilities on the site of a capped and closed landfill, the owner/operator of the property needs to obtain MassDEP authorization to do so. The agency reviews the project to ensure that all activities proposed are consistent with site conditions and the landfill’s closure plan. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
None for a project outside of the site-assigned landfill footprint. For structures or activities located within the footprint of the landfill, MassDEP may issue a provisional project approval with a deferred effective date to allow for a 21-day notice/ comment period. None.

Additional Resources for Facility Closure and Reuse

Waste Determinations and Demonstrations

Permit Category & Explanation:

Solid Waste Beneficial Use Determination

Anyone proposing to use a solid waste material as a substitute for a commercial product or commodity must first obtain MassDEP authorization to do so. The agency reviews the proposed use to ensure that it will be beneficial and not harm public health or the environment. Follow the links below for additional information and definitions. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
21 days. None.

Permit Category & Explanation:

Solid Waste Demonstration Project

This permit is required before anyone can use a new or innovative solid waste management process or technology not already approved by MassDEP at a landfill, transfer station or combustion facility, or new or innovative process for the recycling or composting of pre-sorted materials. MassDEP reviews the proposed process or technology to ensure that it will do no harm to public health, safety or the environment. See Additional Resources below to learn more.

Notice/Comment Public Hearing
Required for some projects, but not all. MassDEP may issue provisional approval with a deferred effective date to allow for 21-day public notice/comment period. See the regulations for additional information. None.

Additional Resources for Waste Determinations and Demonstrations

Levels of MassDEP Oversight

MassDEP regulates facilities of varying sizes and complexity in different ways:

  • Large, complicated operations are required to obtain project- or site-specific permits or approvals before they can be built and/or begin operating.
  • Many smaller facilities and simpler processes are subject to general permits that contain specific performance standards established by regulation.
  • Other operations are required to periodically report data to MassDEP and/or certify to the agency that they are complying with the environmental requirements that apply to them.

While there are no public notice or comment periods associated with facilities subject to general permits or reporting/certification requirements, most of the documents they submit to MassDEP are available for public inspection at the agency's regional offices.

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