The long arm of the Environmental Protection Agency is reaching out to the local town dump - and the huge metropolitan landfill as well.

EPA, in its first major effort to regulate the land disposal of household trash and garbage, is proposing rules that officials say would force nearly every municipal dump to take steps to protect the environment.Announced Wednesday, the plan would require all of the nation's municipal solid waste landfills to install often-expensive monitoring equipment to detect pollution of groundwater supplies.

The proposal, not expected to be popular with local governments, would require the cleaning up of dumps found to be leaking contaminants into underground aquifers.

The draft regulations would force operators to put waterproof covers over dumps when they are closed and would set restrictions on where a new dump can be located.

Many dumps that open after the rules take effect, probably not before 1991, would have to install bottom liners to prevent leakage and have systems to collect the polluting liquids found in dumps.

"It's a very strong protective rule," said J. Winston Porter, assistant EPA administrator for solid waste and emergency response. "In some cases, people are going to have to spend a lot of (compliance) money."

The plan would leave many compliance details up to states, so long as a dump did not impose any greater danger to humans than a 1-in-10,000 chance of contracting cancer from water contaminated by a dump's leachate.

Porter told a news conference that states would have flexibility to operate their own compliance programs with an underlying proviso: "We don't care what you do, but you cannot leak."

The proposal would apply to an estimated 6,000 solid waste landfills - 78 percent of them owned by local governments - that handle about 80 percent of the 160 million tons of household refuse produced each year, he said.

At least one of every four municipal dumps is believed to be violating one or more state standards, he said.