By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 1, 2018 | 11:38 a.m.
Among violations, state found 15,000 square foot area of exposed trash not adequately covered “for a week”
PETERSBURG – The operators of the Tri-City Landfill are now facing legal trouble after the state attorney general’s office and environmental officials announce their plans to sue the company over repeated violations.
In a statement Thursday morning, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality confirmed their lawsuit filing against the CFS Group Disposal and Recycling Services for “its significant and repeated waste management violations” at the Tri-City Landfill in the City of Petersburg near the Prince George County line.
State officials allege CFS “exceeded the permitted waste pile height, failed to properly maintain its stormwater control system, failed to adequately cover exposed waste, failed to maintain the required amount of extra waste cover, and failed to correct the violations in a timely manner even after being repeatedly notified.”
The lawsuit came about after the matter was referred to the state attorney’s office by the director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, who provided key information that will be used as part of the case against CFS, including inspection reports, two consent orders, a warning letter, a notice of violation and notices to CFS about the ongoing violations on a number of occasions.
“CFS repeatedly received warnings that it was in violation of the law but it continued to ignore its responsibility to protect the land, air and water around the Tri-City Landfill and failed to comply with waste management permits and regulations,” said Attorney General Herring.
“DEQ’s permits and regulations govern a variety of facilities and activities to ensure the protection of human health and the environment,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “Ensuring facilities comply with these permits and requirements to maintain that protection is paramount.”
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Petersburg Circuit Court, the Commonwealth alleges that many of the landfill’s violations have been allowed to continue for as far back as December of 2014.
Following a 2015 consent order where CFS was found to have failed in providing daily cover of exposed waste, failed in keeping the “working face of the landfill as small as practicable,” failed to keep internal and perimeter roads passable for vehicles, and a slope failure that resulted in a waste slide, the company was required to address these issues while also paying a $45,000 fine to the Commonwealth.
Later in 2017, following CFS’s merger with Meridian Waste Solutions, the operators entered into a second consent order, which replaced the earlier 2015 agreement. According to court documents, the 2017 consent order stated that CFS violated state law by “exceeding permitted slope ratios for the landfill,” again failing to provide adequate daily cover of exposed waste, allowing leachate, or liquid comprised of materials that are found in the landfill mass as it decomposes, to be “released beyond the lined area of the landfill,” and allowing coal ash at the landfill to be displaced from the lined area of the site.
Specifically, regarding the coal ash violation, court documents detail in September of 2016, “coal ash, which CFS had stockpiled over an approximately three-acre area, mixed with rainwater discharged over the liner …, flowed into a wooded area, and reached the Appomattox River.”
At that time, the company stated the coal ash discharge “released 50 cubic yards of coal ash beyond the lined area, which affected approximately a half an acre, and that about one cubic yard entered the Appomattox River.” In addition, that coal ash discharge was found to have “inundated 0.15 acres of nearby wetlands with up to ten inches of coal ash.”
The lawsuit further details inspection records that show over the course of five inspections between October and November of 2016, CFS was found to be “not using adequate daily cover” for the exposed waste at the landfill site, eventually culminating in a July 20, 2018, warning letter to the company detailing the significant and continued violations.
Despite sending a letter to state environmental officials in August stating that the issues had been addressed, a day later on August 3, Virginia DEQ issued a notice of violation to the facility’s operators. In their notice, the state highlights the string of issues in the area of exposed waste, noting that the company failed to provide adequate cover for exposed waste, which measured roughly 15,000 square feet in size. In addition, state documents claim CFS failed to provide daily cover of that 15,000-square-foot exposed waste “for a week.”
The company was also found to not have maintained “three days’ worth of acceptable soil cover material stockpiled near the landfill’s working face.”
Following that August notice, CFS did, according to court documents, request to meet with Virginia DEQ and told officials that they had addressed many of the concerns laid out in previous letters from state environmental regulators, including clogged drains, and daily cover issues.
Nearly three months after the notice of violation, the state filed their lawsuit, alleging CFS has violated the provisions of the Virginia Waste Management Act, Virginia DEQ’s Solid Waste Management Regulations, and “has violated and continues to violate” provisions of its permit with the Commonwealth.
Attorney General Herring has asked the state to consider imposing a $32,500 per day civil penalty against CFS for the violations set forth in the August 2018 notice of violation, “limiting or ceasing waste disposal at the landfill until such time as [CFS] comes into compliance with applicable law, regulation, and permit conditions,” and requiring CFS to pay $32,500 per day for each violation of the terms of the court’s order.
“Today, we are asking the court to ensure that CFS stops these violations and compensates Virginia accordingly for its role in damaging the environment around its Petersburg facility,” Herring said.
Mary O’Brien, head of marketing for Meridian Waste Solutions, the parent company of CFS, was unable to speak in great detail as they prepare for the pending litigation, but she said the company has been working closely with the state to address these issues.
“We are addressing the concerns laid out in the lawsuit,” she said, adding that the facility has actually significantly cut back on the amount of trash it is taking into the landfill.
“We are permitted for 1,000 tons per day and currently, we have cut that by 90 percent,” O’Brien said. “Approximately 100 tons [per day] is being disposed of at the Tri-City Landfill at this time. The other remaining is being transferred through a permitted transfer station to a separately owned CFS landfill within the state of Virginia.”
She also noted that the facility no longer takes in out-of-state trash.
“There is zero out-of-state waste coming into Tri-City Landfill now,” O’Brien said.
“We will be working with and have been working with DEQ,” she continued. “Meridian Waste is a new owner to the site and these are issues that date back to 2015. It is nothing new that the new owners have created, they are existing issues that we realize need to be addressed and we will certainly address them.”