Sussex landfill odor reduction efforts working well, says operators

By Michael Campbell, News Editor
July 19, 2017 | 9:32 a.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – As the summer season gets into full swing and residents seek to enjoy the great outdoors, some positive news may be in the air for some as officials with the Sussex landfill say efforts to quell odor issues from the facility are progressing.

Over three months since his last update, Jason Williams with Atlantic Waste Disposal presented his report to supervisors during their lone meeting this month, informing county leaders and the audience that capping efforts remain on schedule at the landfill just outside of Waverly.

In February, Williams and a team of representatives from Waste Management gave a hard deadline to supervisors of June 30 for when odor from the facility should begin to reduce, a welcome word to those living and working in the area some distance away from the site who complain of odors seeping into their homes and being physically overcome by the smells emanating from the Sussex facility.Last week, Williams said they have met that deadline and have seen “a dramatic decrease” in odor complaints following the completion of that phase of capping.

According to documents provided by the county from Waste Management and Atlantic Waste Disposal, since January of this year, 38 acres of the landfill has been capped with a synthetic material with another 30 acres expected to be capped through the end of the year to continue to tackle the ongoing odor issues.

In addition, from now through the end of the year, officials plan to continue to expand the landfill’s gas system, with over two dozen new gas collection wells in the works, bringing the total number of wells to over 400.

At last week’s meeting, Williams told supervisors that the facility’s collection efforts have improved, as well.

Even though Williams cited a reduction in odor complaints coming to his office and from other sources, Supervisor Alan Carmichael was quick to point out his recent experience of smelling foul odors from the landfill well beyond its borders.

“I was at the Circle D Mart off [Route 156] yesterday and the smell was unbelievable,” Carmichael told Williams, going on to say that he told constituents that were wondering when odor relief was on the way and crews at the site had to deal with some rainy days, shifting the completion timetable a bit.

Despite the odor flare-up, Carmichael corroborated Williams’ complaint comments, saying he too had seen a reduction in complaints from citizens about the facility’s smell issues.

While smell remains an ongoing concern for residents in both Prince George and Sussex, a contributing factor to the odor increased leachate production, continues to be investigated by officials with the landfill.

When asked by Supervisor T.J. Webb if a source for the leachate generation had been found, Williams said they continue to unsuccessful in their efforts to determine a cause.

In February, Atlantic Waste Disposal told supervisors and the public that leachate, the liquid material generated by the landfill mass that a working group had been formed to help gain knowledge on how to address, prevent, and control the reactions in landfills.

It’s an issue that officials with Waste Management say they are working to get a grip on, telling Sussex supervisors in late 2015 that they are trying to understand, noting this level of leachate generation is something either Waste Management or Atlantic Waste Disposal has dealt with.

As of July, Williams said the working group is still conducting studies but a cause remains unknown.

According to Atlantic Waste, as of 2015, the company transported approximately 6,200 gallons of leachate from the landfill across over 50 trucks on a daily basis, which led to efforts by operators to build their own wastewater treatment facility on site, which is slated to begin operations sometime in 2017.

The facility also began using “temporary leachate storage impoundment” for a permit modification request submitted to DEQ in 2015, allowing for the use of seven lagoons for leachate storage with a total capacity of over 57 million gallons.

Leachate has been an issue for the facility for several years through today on both the operational and regulatory side as the land mass continues to generate the liquid at an accelerated pace.

Currently, public comment is open for a consent order against the landfill for violations of the State Water Control Law following a number of inspections by representatives from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality who observed leachate leaking seeping from the landfill into wetlands and sediment basins around the facility.

According to documents, based on discharge reports from Atlantic Waste Disposal and the results of a pair of inspections in the fall of 2015 and late winter of 2016, it was determined that operators had violated conditions of their permit and drafted a consent order that, among other things, would hand down a civil charge of $120,000 in order to settle the violations.

As part of that settlement, Atlantic Waste Disposal would pay $30,000 of that penalty within 30 days of the order’s effective date and, as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project done at the request of Atlantic Waste Disposal, $90,000 would be used to “restore an environmental education boardwalk dock/boat launch facility” at the 4-H Center in Sussex.

“The project provides pollution reduction, environmental restoration, environmental compliance promotion, and pollution prevention,” documents from Virginia DEQ explain.

The proposed project would see the existing wooden boardwalk at the lake on 4-H’s property replaced with a new structure that would a floating dock, boardwalk and handicapped accessible boat launch.

The balance of the $215,000 project would be paid by the 4-H Center as they already have the funding required to pay for the improvements.

Atlantic Waste Disposal would have to make the $90,000 payment to the 4-H Center by January 1, 2018, and submit quarterly progress reports on the SEP.

In 2015, a “significant release of Leachate” from a seep at the landfill entered a storm water drain channel and flowed into a culvert pipe, leaving the facility and eventually reaching the woods near Pigeon Swamp, leaving “a strong odor” while making the water “cloudy and brown with a minor sheen, bubbles, and foam,” according to state records.

As part of a separate consent order that year, Atlantic Waste Disposal was fined over $33,000 by the Virginia Waste Management Board and the State Water Control Board.

While the on-site waste water treatment facility is expected to address some of the leachate issues at the landfill, Williams told supervisors last week, they will continue to do capping in a proactive manner to manage odors and other issues as they arise.

“I am pleased that this visit was not as adversarial,” Chairman Bill Robertson remarked, referring back to the late-February meeting where a number of residents were vocal in their displeasure with Atlantic Waste’s efforts to deal with the site’s odors.

“I have heard from residents through e-mails that it is better,” he continued, adding, “Of course, when you live close to a landfill, it will never go away completely.”

While it is unknown when Williams or representatives from Atlantic Waste Disposal will return to the Prince George Board of Supervisors for another update, Williams is expected to be present at Sussex’s regular meeting of the board of supervisors on July 20.

In 2016, supervisors in that county asked Williams and WM representatives to appear monthly at their meetings to provide updates on efforts to deal with the landfill’s issues, an appointment Atlantic Waste Disposal has kept consistently.

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