State moves to shut down landfill following mismanagement allegations, lawsuit

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 23, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. 

VIRGINIA – Just weeks after state prosecutors announced their plans to sue the operators of a landfill facility in the heart of South Central Virginia, a different state agency has begun the process to try and shut down the waste site entirely.

According to a letter sent to Meridian Waste Services, the operators of the Tri-City Regional Landfill in Petersburg near the Prince George County line, dated November 30, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality formally stated its plans to initiate the revocation of the facility’s solid waste permit, which is what grants the landfill the ability to operate.

The facility has been permitted to operate since 1977 as the City of Petersburg was the original permit holder before it was transferred to Container First Services in 2009

This move comes weeks after the Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his office in Richmond announced their lawsuit against CFS Group Disposal and Recycling Services for its “significant and repeated waste management violations,” which date back in some cases to December of 2014, according to state records.

In the letter from Virginia DEQ Central Operations Director Jeffrey Steers, he states the agency has begun the process of terminating the facility’s permit, which will see formal hearing before a decision on their permit and ability to operate is made. 

The letter stressed that the actions being taken by the state’s environmental protection arm “does not supersede or displace the judicial action” that was filed by the State Attorney General’s Office.

When asked, Virginia DEQ officials also provided a copy of the facility’s compliance inspection report dated November 19, 2018, less than two weeks before Herring would announce his lawsuit against CFS and Meridian. In it, a total of four violations were noted in the areas of “facility operation, maintenance, and training,” “hazard and nuisance control,” “decomposition gas concentrations, monitoring, and recordkeeping,” and “leachate control.”

During their inspection, officials stated dust and dirt were tracked out onto Puddledock Road, which needed to be addressed by operators, internal roads were “muddy with water pooled in certain areas,” only passable with an all-terrain vehicle.

Additionally, inspectors found waste along the working face of the facility, and even though operators were hauling covering material to cover the area, facility staff reportedly told inspectors the waste “could not be properly covered until [the] slope conditions improve.”

One of the biggest complaints regarding the landfill centers on the foul and often overpowering odor that emanates from the facility at times, sometimes reaching neighboring communities like Prince George, Dinwiddie, and Colonial Heights. According to this inspection report, “[Landfill gas] was detected at the intersection of Temple Avenue and Puddledock Road, which became stronger and more pungent once on-site near the southwestern side of the landfill’s Phase 2 area.

At that time, inspectors were told the gas was the result of ongoing excavation work being conducted along the access road on the Southwestern side of the Phase 2 area. 

Regarding the fourth violation dealing with leachate control, which involves the liquid that is generated by the landfill mass as a result of decomposition, active seeps were found, with leachate being observed beyond the lined disposal area under a stormwater drain pipe. In addition, inspectors counted nearly a dozen other seeps that had been worked on by facility personnel that had been either left open to let them drain fully or covered with soil.

Many of the items noted during the November 19 inspection were also noted in the Commonwealth’s lawsuit against CFS and Meridian. 

According to court documents, the Tri-City Regional Landfill faces a number of mismanagement allegations regarding its operation that led to the lawsuit, such as not providing enough cover for an area of exposed waste at the landfill that measured 15,000 square feet “for a week,” failing to keep internal roads passable, and coal ash violations that saw roughly 50 cubic yards of coal ash flow beyond its storage area and into a wooded area, “[inundating] 0.15 acres of nearby wetlands with up to ten inches of coal ash” before reaching the Appomattox River. 

Over the course of the last three years, CFS has entered into two consent orders with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, one in 2015 regarding its failure to cover exposed waste and another in 2017, superseding the 2015 order, due to CFS’ violation of state laws 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.

As part of the lawsuit filed by Herring’s office, prosecutors are asking the state to consider imposing a $32,500 per day civil fine against CFS and a limit or complete stoppage of the facility’s waste disposal operations until the landfill comes into compliance. 

“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 during a press conference announcing the state’s litigation intentions.

Following last month’s announcement, Mary O’Brien, head of marketing for Merdian Waste Solutions, who merged with CFS in 2017, stated the company was actively working to tackle the facility’s problem areas.

“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.

At that time, O’Brien said the Tri-City Regional Landfill had cut its trash intake by 90 percent, taking in only 100 tons of its maximum permitted amount 1,000 tons, adding that the remaining waste is being “transferred through a permitted transfer station to a separately owned CFS landfill within the state of Virginia.”

Despite rumors and speculation by locals, O’Brien stressed that the facility no longer takes in out-of-state waste.

“There is zero out-of-state waste coming into Tri-City Landfill now,” O’Brien said.

While the state’s letter notes its intention to start revocation proceedings, a timetable for any hearings or related meetings has not been announced. 

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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