Waste Transfer Stations

Getting the benefits of solid waste transfer stations without harming neighborhoods

Transfer stations are an essential part of minimizing the volume of solid waste from our homes, businesses, schools, etc. that must be buried in landfills. Transfer stations can make it easier to achieve recycling and other Zero Waste goals. Transfer stations also reduce diesel emissions by minimizing the distance compactor trucks must travel.

Waste transfer stations can be sources of air pollution and other threats to public health as well as noise, odors, and excessive truck traffic on local roads.  These impacts can substantially reduce property value.  It is for these reasons that waste transfer stations should not be located near residences. 

If you are concerned about a proposed waste transfer station or expansion of an existing facility, then CEDS can help.  To see examples of how we’ve helped others concerned about solid waste facilities, go to: https://ceds.org/success-examples/#landfill.  Contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org for a no-cost initial discussion of how we can help safeguard you and your neighbors from a poorly planned waste facility.

What is a Waste Transfer Station?

As the name implies, a transfer station is a location where solid waste is transferred from the trucks that collect it from homes or businesses to larger vehicles for delivery to a landfill, incinerator or other facility.  Potential transfer station impacts include:

How to Stop Bad Waste Transfer Stations Proposals

Most waste projects require the approval of either a local or state legislative body, such as a Town Council, Board of Supervisors, County Commissioners, Legislature, General Assembly, and/or a chief executive like a Mayor or County Executive. The approvals may entail inclusion in a solid waste plan along with building, grading, discharge or other environmental permits. Most efforts to stop bad waste projects succeed in a political arena, where citizens have the advantage. While the applicant usually has the advantage in the courts, litigation may be necessary to prevent permits from being granted before the political effort produces victory.

CEDS employees a unique approach known as Politically Oriented Advocacy to win in the political arena. The CEDS Smart Legal Strategies approach can even the odds a bit in courts where citizens tend to be at a disadvantage.

If you wish, CEDS can prepare a strategy analysis to confirm that a waste facility should be defeated and to set forth the steps most likely to stop bad waste projects. An example can be seen by clicking the following title: Brownville Rubble Landfill – Strategy Analysis Example. Chapters 35 to 42 in our free, 300-page book How To Win Land Development Issues provide more detailed advice.

So before you hire a lawyer or any other professionals, give CEDS call. We exist to assist folks who need more help then nonprofits can provide, but are not in a position to invest thousands of dollars in legal action. Our clients are presently winning 90% of their cases thanks to Politically Oriented Advocacy, an approach CEDS developed.


While waste transfer stations are essential and must exist somewhere, far too many unnecessarily impact neighborhoods and the environment. These impacts may extend several hundred feet to several miles. Following is a summary of the most common impacts prompting folks to seek to stop bad waste projects. Evaluating the potential impact of a proposed facility can be complex and frequently requires professional assistance. For further detail contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.

Noise Impacts of Waste Transfer Stations

Sound that disturbs the peacefulness of your home is an apt description of noise. Excessive noise from both landfills and transfer stations can make it difficult to relax, concentrate or share a conversation with others. Early morning or late-night noise can disrupt you sleep. With regard to waste transfer stations, the most common noises are from back-up beepers and the clang of tail gates slamming against heavy truck bodies. Public address systems are occasionally another source of noise.

Noise impacts from waste transfer stations can be reduced considerably if transfers and processing occurs entirely within an enclosed building, including no open doors.

You should insist on a detailed noise study to determine if sound levels will exceed those permitted in your state or locality. If a study is produced and you’d like a second opinion, then feel free to forward it to CEDS. But contact us first at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org to let us know its coming. Following are a couple of steps for reducing the more common sources of waste transfer station noise.

In a 2010 report, the National Academy of Engineering cited back-up beepers are one of the top six noise sources associated with behavioral and emotional consequences. Backup beepers and slamming tailgates top the federal Department of Transportation’s list of nighttime construction noise sources.

Alternatives are available to traditional back-up beepers, such as white-noise devices which may be even more effective but cause less disturbance to area residents. The Federal Highway Administration recommended four actions to reduce noise from slamming tailgates:

  • Establish truck clean out staging areas;
  • Use rubber gaskets;
  • Decrease speed of closure; or
  • Use bottom dump trucks.

Odor Impacts of Waste Transfer Stations

Generally, odors from most municipal waste are not too bad. But when the odors are bad they can be offensive at a considerable distance.  Odors from waste transfer stations can be reduced considerably if transfers and processing occurs entirely within an enclosed building with no open doors and good air filtration systems.

Property Value Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

If a waste transfer stations can be seen, heard or smelled from a home then it probably lowers property value. Property value can also be depressed if waste transfer stations cannot be seen, heard or smelled but a large number of trucks travelling to the landfill pass by a home.

It is not uncommon for those proposing a waste transfer station to present the opinion of a real estate appraisal professional.  Invariably the conclusion is no adverse effects to nearby home or land value.  What is usually missing is data gathered by independent experts.

Truck Traffic Impacts of Waste Transfer Stations

Waste transfer stations generate a tremendous amount of truck traffic. An increase in heavy truck traffic can lower property value and increase accidents as well as noise. The noise alone can substantially lower property value when truck traffic increases. The noise from heavy truck traffic lowers property value at a rate 30 to 50 times greater than cars. This is because at 50 feet heavy trucks emit noise 16 times louder than car traffic. With regard to accidents, a fatality is twice as likely when a car is involved in a crash with a truck vs. another car.  In a 2008 study, researchers noted an increased cancer risk among those along the routes traveled by trucks hauling waste to a regional municipal landfill.  However, the increase was one additional cancer case per 39 million people.

Water Pollution Impacts of Waste Transfer Stations, Etc.

When rain or snowmelt enters a landfill and mixes with decomposing waste a highly-contaminated liquid known as leachate can form.  A 2002 review of 128 papers listed 133 chemicals detected in landfill leachate.  These chemicals can be toxic to aquatic life and may pose a threat to human health including cancer.  This literature review noted that the chemical composition of leachate changes over time.  However, leachate may remain harmful indefinitely.  

Waste will not remain long enough at a properly managed transfer station for significant decomposition to occur.  But if waste is left outside then rain or snow melt can wash a number of pollutants into nearby waters.  If waste is stored on permeable surfaces, like a sandy soil, then groundwater contamination is a possibility.

The potential for water pollution is greatly reduced if all waste storage, transfers and processing occurs on an impermeable surface (asphalt-concrete) inside a fully enclosed building.  Also, all rooftops, parking areas and other impermeable surfaces should drain to highly-effective stormwater Best Management Practices.

Getting the Benefits of Waste Transfer Stations with Fewer Impacts

In this section we’ll introduce options for minimizing impacts rather then just seeking to just stop bad waste projects. The key to minimizing impacts due to waste transfer stations is the minimize the amount and type of waste requiring transfer or disposal. According to EPA:

“In 2013, America recovered about 67 percent (5.7 million tons) of newspaper- mechanical paper and about 60 percent of yard trimmings.”

As of 2013, San Francisco diverted 80% of their waste from landfills while the national diversion rate was 35%. Advocating for aggressive waste reduction, reuse and recycling programs is the best way to minimize the size and number of transfer stations, landfills and waste processing facilities in your area.

In addition to waste minimization, the following measures will reduce waste facility impacts:

  • Waste facilities should be located in industrial areas and away from homes;
  • If a site is not available in an industrial area, then landfills, composting and related sites should be located at least 1500 feet from homes;
  • Most waste facilities generate truck traffic so they should be located where direct access is available to a four-lane road or other major highways, never where trucks must travel residential streets;
  • Waste processing and transfer should be done within a building fitted state-of-the-art equipment to control odors, dust, airborne pathogens and allergens;
  • The building should have an impermeable floor to prevent groundwater contamination;
  • Safety measures must be used that protect workers as well as area residents from excessive noise, such as white-noise backup alarms, rubber- gasketed or bottom-opening truck tailgates; and
  • Waste facilities facilities posing a ground or surface water contamination potential should not be located in areas where drinking water would be threatened along with waters support uniquely sensitive aquatic communities.


The first step is to assess the actual impact to determine if it’s necessary to stop bad waste projects.  The process of assessing potential impacts from landfills and transfer stations is kind of the reverse of the criteria given above for Getting the Benefits With Fewer Impacts. Specifically, landfills and transfer stations should NOT be located:

In residential areas;

  • Within 1500 feet if waste is handled, transferred, processed or landfilled in the open (not inside a building);
  • Where truck traffic will travel residential streets or other roads where an increase in trucks may pose a threat to homes or other motorists;
  • Where noise may exceed thresholds that harm quality of life for area residents;
  • In areas with nearby wells or surface drinking water sources; or
  • Where sensitive aquatic communities may be harmed.

In addition, if a waste facility has been proposed for a site within four miles of your community or in the watershed of a stream, lake, or other aquatic resource you value, then we urge you to aggressively pursue the following quality of life protection measures:

  • Ensure that strategies for minimizing the need for another landfill (reduce, recycle, and reuse) being aggressively pursued;
  • Assuming full use of waste reduction strategies, is another landfill truly needed;
  • Make certain that all reasonable sites have been considered and that the proposed location truly is the best; and
  • Carefully scrutinize the design, operation plan, and long term care to ensure that the landfill causes the least impact possible.


Once landfills and transfer stations are in place they have a tendency to grow. Landfill owners are particularly prone to seek horizontal or vertical expansions as a facility nears capacity. Promises are often made during the initial permitting that a facility will never expand. While these promises may be sincere, the elected officials who make them may no longer be in office as a facility nears capacity.

One way to protect area residents from a never ending waste facility is a side agreement. The agreement is between the facility owners and individual citizens or a citizens group. Following are some of the important MUSTS:

  • It must have enforcement mechanisms which do not drain you of funds, time or other resources;
  • The attorneys for the waste facility owner should prepare the first draft of the agreement;
  • The agreement must be reviewed by an attorney of your choosing, who is paid by you and who has extensive experience with this area of the law;
  • The agreement must be notarized and recorded in the land records so it runs with the deed and binds on current as well as future owners of the facility site; and
  • The waste facility owner must reimburse you for all expenses.


Following are the many ways in which CEDS can greatly increase the odds of winning a campaign to stop bad waste projects and protect you, your family and neighbors from the impact of landfills and transfer stations.

Free Advice By Phone

We’d be delighted to answer any specific questions you have regarding a waste facility. Just give us a call at 410-654-3021. Advice by phone is always available free of charge to those seeking to preserve their home and neighborhood from harm.

Free Plans Review

We can conduct an initial review of facility plans for obvious, potential impacts. We can then suggest possible technical solutions for each impact and suggest strategies for ensuring that the project is not approved until each solution is fully adopted. For those facilities where impacts cannot be resolved, we can suggest how you can research possible strategy options for preventing the facility from opening.

Detailed Analysis of Strategy Options

If you find you lack the time to research strategy options on your own, then we can carry out an Initial Strategy Analysis (ISA). Of course the purpose of the ISA is to determine the quickest, least expensive strategy for resolving your concerns. Generally, the ISA costs $1,000 to $3,000 and can be completed in two weeks. Examples of a CEDS analysis can be viewed by clicking the following:

Following is a bit more background on the CEDS philosophy and approach regarding waste facilities.

While we need a place to put materials which cannot be recycled or reused, the benefits of waste facilities can come at a tremendous cost to nearby residents and the environment. Though technological advances make the landfill of today safer than those of the past, the added safeguards are by no means foolproof much less universally applied.

The following two publications illustrate the approach advocated by CEDS to ensure that the preceding measures are achieved.

Additionally, the CEDS Project Evaluation Checklist allows you to assess the quality of life effects of many types of proposed development activities. A number of the impacts listed in the checklist are applicable to landfills, such as air quality, environmental justice, fire, groundwater degradation, historic places, light trespass, noise, odors, property value, traffic, and water pollution. Detail on how to review a project for these potential impacts can be found in our free 300-page book How To Win Land Development Issues. Strategies for defeating a poorly conceived landfill project can be found in Chapters 35 to 42.

CEDS is a nationwide network of attorneysplannersenvironmental scientiststraffic engineerspolitical strategistsfundraisers, and other professionals. We help people with concerns about all types of landfills (municipal, construction-demolition debris, land clearing debris, stump dumps, rubble, etc). We also help those living near existing and closed landfills to reduce facility impacts.

To learn how we can help with the landfill of concern to you, just give us a call at 410-654-3021. Advice by phone is always available free of charge to those seeking to preserve their home and neighborhood from harm. You can also email us at Rklein@ceds.org.