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Collecting and analyzing Wisconsin landfill environmental monitoring data

The DNR's Waste and Materials Management Program has collected environmental monitoring data from licensed landfills since the mid-1970s. These data are captured in the Groundwater and Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) database. Program staff use information in GEMS extensively to evaluate the performance of landfills and determine their impact on the environment.

Environmental monitoring data submitted to the DNR are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of remedial actions taken at landfills. We receive and review a wide variety of environmental monitoring data from more than 600 landfills, including the results from analysis of groundwater, air and leachate samples, methane gas readings and water table measurements.

Information contained in GEMS and its integrity

The records contained in GEMS cover analytical data for groundwater samples from monitoring wells at solid waste facilities, private drinking water supply wells around landfills, and a few hazardous waste facilities that have monitoring wells. In addition, the database contains records for gas, leachate and surface water monitoring from landfills.

The environmental monitoring data for older licensed landfills can be very extensive. In some cases, data has been collected since the late 1970s from groundwater monitoring wells (water table observation wells and piezometers), leachate tanks and head wells, gas probes, gas extraction wells, sedimentation ponds and surface water sampling points.

To maintain the integrity of the GEMS database, it is critical that facilities, consultants and laboratories work with the DNR to ensure that environmental samples are collected and analyzed properly with the resulting data transferred accurately to the DNR.

Public access to GEMS

The GEMS on the Web system is an interactive application used by DNR staff to view and analyze environmental monitoring data in a variety of ways, including generating more than 20 different reports. The public can access GEMS on the Web to find landfill environmental monitoring data.

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