In­put on ‘stench’ prompts new look at land­fill laws

State law­mak­ers en­ter re­search phase af­ter re­cur­ring res­i­dent feed­back on Tri-City Re­gional Land­fill odor

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Kate Gib­son Staff Writer

PETERS­BURG— A state law­maker from Peters­burg is try­ing to de­ter­mine if is­sues over the odor from the city-based Tri-City Re­gional Land­fill can be reme­died through leg­is­la­tion in next year’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion.

Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-63rd, said the is­sue is “very much in a re­search state right now.” Aird and her aides are work­ing with the state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity to cap­ture data from DEQ nui­sance re­ports about manag­ing smells at sim­i­lar-sized land­fills across Vir­ginia. By early Novem­ber, the del­e­gate added, she will de­cide if a bill should be filed.

“Usu­ally what I like to do is, if I’m in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion that’s go­ing to im­pact a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try or party, to give them a heads-up, so that it’s, ‘No harm in­tended, but this is the path that we would be tak­ing,’” Aird said, “and to re­quest any feed­back and/ or pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions that need to be made as we move for­ward with leg­is­la­tion.”

The dead­line for pre­fil­ing bills for 2019 con­sid­er­a­tion is early De­cem­ber.

Leg­isla­tive rem­edy be­came a pos­si­bil­ity fol­low­ing a com­mu­nity meet­ing Aird called last month to gauge sen­ti­ment over the odor that nearby res­i­dents claim comes from the Pud­dle­dock Road site. The meet­ing be­came quite heated at times, with ex­changes over what one res­i­dent called “Mount Stench­more.”

At present, there are no spe­cific met­rics used to quan­tify or reg­u­late land­fill odor. In terms of gas mon­i­tor­ing, the DEQ as­sesses lev­els of meth­ane — an odor­less, highly flammable gas — which can be un­safe, but does not con­trib­ute to un­pleas­ant aro­mas.

Justin Wil­liams, direc­tor of DEQ’s Land Pro­tec­tion and Re­vi­tal­iza­tion

di­vi­sion, said that of­fen­sive smells are usu­ally tied to com­pounds like hy­dro­gen sul­fide, which can smell like rot­ten eggs, and these com­pounds “are not com­mon or re­quired mon­i­tor­ing pa­ram­e­ters for land­fills.”

Be­tween 90 and 98 per­cent of land­fill gas is typ­i­cally made up of car­bon monox­ide and meth­ane, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Health for New York State. Two to 10 per­cent is made of other gases, like ni­tro­gen and oxy­gen, and com­pounds like hy­dro­gen sul­fide and am­mo­nia. Am­mo­nia can also have a pun­gent odor.

Land­fill gas mon­i­tor­ing is per­formed quar­terly by a third party, not DEQ or the land­fill, and DEQ re­views the find­ings.

DEQ also mon­i­tors land­fill cover, or the soils or tarps used to cover waste. Tri-City Re­gional Land­fill uses a com­bi­na­tion of soil and a polypropy­lene tarp as cover ma­te­rial. Wil­liams said that cover serves two pur­poses: keep­ing birds and ver­min out of the refuse, and pro­vid­ing a phys­i­cal bar­rier be­tween the trash and the air to keep odors down.

DEQ in­spects the land­fill at least once ev­ery quar­ter to en­sure that the fa­cil­ity is in com­pli­ance with state reg­u­la­tions and ap­pli­ca­ble per­mits. When ap­pro­pri­ate, the group also fol­lows up with ad­di­tional in­spec­tions af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing al­leged vi­o­la­tions.

The land­fill is re­quired to take steps to ad­dress vi­o­la­tions within des­ig­nated time frames, de­pend­ing on the type of vi­o­la­tion and how long it would rea­son­ably take to im­ple­ment a cor­rec­tive course of ac­tion.

A re­view of the TriCity Re­gional Land­fill’s in­spec­tion re­ports in the past year showed that the land­fill has not tested above per­mit­ted meth­ane lev­els dur­ing this time, and in­spec­tors con­sis­tently com­mented that they did not iden­tify off-site odors. How­ever, out of10 re­ports for in­spec­tions per­formed

be­tween June 7, 2017 and July 24, 2018, five re­ports noted in­suf­fi­cient cover over land­fill waste.

Land­fills are re­quired to pro­vide six inches of cover on ac­tive waste ar­eas and six ad­di­tional inches on ar­eas that will not re­ceive ad­di­tional waste within 30 days.

The June 22, 2018 sur­vey noted that un­cov­ered waste was piled more than 35 feet higher than per­mit­ted in one re­gion of the land­fill and left un­cov­ered for a week. This find­ing was made about a month be­fore the com­mu­nity meet­ing.

Ad­di­tion­ally, five in­spec­tion re­ports noted that the land­fill did not ap­pear to be main­tain­ing the re­quired three-day stock­pile of cover ma­te­rial.

Po­si­tioned near the con­ver­gence of Peters­burg, Colo­nial Heights and Prince Ge­orge County, the Tri-City Re­gional Land­fill was cre­ated by the city of Peters­burg in 1977 and owned by the city un­til 2009. That year, the 82-acre land was pri­va­tized and sold to Con­tainer First Ser­vices.

The site is rec­og­niz­able by two hill-like land cells vis­i­ble from most of north­east­ern Peters­burg, por­tions of Prince Ge­orge County and across the Ap­po­mat­tox River in Colo­nial Heights’ South­park busi­ness district.

Mul­ti­ple at­tempts to con­tact Rob Guidry, pres­i­dent and CEO of CFS, were un­suc­cess­ful.

Aird called the July com­mu­nity meet­ing at AMMO Brew­ing in Peters­burg af­ter mem­bers of the High Street Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion con­tacted her with con­cerns over the land­fill odor. The High Street neigh­bor­hood is on the other side of down­town Peters­burg from the land­fill, but res­i­dents there claim winds from that di­rec­tion of­ten carry the odor into their neigh­bor­hood.

More than 60 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing, and many of them ex­pressed frus­tra­tion over the re­cur­ring na­ture of the odor prob­lem.

“I’ve been here for 59 years and two months and two days, and I know when the stench was here and when the stench was not here,” Peters­burg res­i­dent Ken­neth Lewis said. “And so, I also know that while there are other sources of pos­si­ble stench, that Mount Stench­more does have the great­est amount of stench when you’re com­ing down (state Route) 36, and some­times it does come all the way up to cen­ter city, of Hal­i­fax Street and Hard­ing Street and that area.”

Another “source of pos­si­ble stench” is the South Cen­tral Waste­water Au­thor­ity. Lo­cated where In­ter­state 95 crosses the Ap­po­mat­tox River, this wa­ter treat­ment plant is less than one mile from the Tri-City Re­gional Land­fill.

Guidry said dur­ing the Aird meet­ing that the land­fill op­er­ates in ac­cor­dance with its per­mits and that land­fills, to some de­gree, will al­ways smell.

“All of you got trash in your home, cor­rect? And when you take it out, you take it out be­cause it stinks, cor­rect?” Guidry said to the au­di­ence dur­ing the meet­ing. “Well, I can prom­ise you, when we take it, it stinks in the trash cans, it stinks in the trucks, it stinks com­ing down the road, and it’s go­ing to stink in that land­fill un­til we get it cov­ered up at night.

“And I don’t care what oper­a­tion you see in Amer­ica — when they’re tak­ing trash from the trucks, putting it into the land­fill cell, and wait­ing ... for that ma­te­rial to be cov­ered, you’re go­ing to have odors. That’s fact.”

Guidry said that the land­fill has taken mea­sures to ad­dress the odor prob­lem, such as in­stalling gas wells and flares to con­tain and burn off odor­ous gases. In the past, he added, the land­fill also tried scented sprays to mask the smell, al­though he noted that the scents were not well-re­ceived.

It is un­clear whether the land­fill has taken ad­di­tional mea­sures to con­ceal odors since the com­mu­nity meet­ing. How­ever, in the month fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Lewis said he has not no­ticed the odor as fre­quently as he had pre­vi­ously.

“There have been days that I have smelled it,” he added, “but not as badly.”

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