Tri-City Landfill subject of recent regional meeting with regulators

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: March 17, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

Dinwiddie now seeing hundreds of dump trucks hauling trash from Petersburg

DINWIDDIE – Nearly six months after state regulators moved to shut down the Tri-City Landfill in Petersburg, the region’s leaders continue their efforts to attain more information about the facility’s closure as communities surrounding the landfill are starting to see impacts, ranging from the prospect of increased costs to the daily trek of hundreds of dump trucks hauling debris from Petersburg to an alternate site in Lunenburg.

Last week, Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill revealed he, along with city and county managers from the Tri-City/Tri-County region met with members of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in Richmond to learn more about the agency’s action against Petersburg’s Tri-City Landfill, operated by Container First Services, a subsidiary of Meridian Waste.

The landfill had served the region for a number of decades before DEQ officials moved to revoke the facility’s solid waste permit in the Fall of 2019 due to repeated violations of state regulations, effectively ending their operations at a site had become hard to miss when traveling through the region as its hills of covered trash and earthmovers grew increasingly visible in parts of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Prince George.

As he explained earlier this year, the meeting with state regulators was not about advocating for the facility to resume operations but more focused on gathering a better understanding of what happened to bring forth the closure and how that decision could affect the region.

Following their meeting, Justin Williams, director of Virginia DEQ’s Land Protection and Revitalization Division pinned a letter to Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel Lee where he chronicled the state’s efforts to bring the Tri-City Landfill into compliance and their eventual decision to revoke the facility’s operating permit.

According to Williams, the agency “carefully and fully considered every appropriate course of action to address repeated non-compliance at the landfill,” adding that Virginia DEQ was left with “no other appropriate action” following “repeated non-compliance and [the facility’s] response” but to revoke the landfill’s permit and require that the facility close.

While the landfill is prohibited from intaking and storing trash at their facility following their permit revocation, those driving by the facility and complex may see activity on and around the landfill as CFS and Meridian Waste are required to provide “proper closure” and “post-closure care,” which includes the removal of several feet of buried trash and material from the top of the facility.

That material is being trucked out of Petersburg, through Dinwidide County along U.S. Route 460 to another CFS-owned and operated landfill in Lunenburg County, 60 miles away from the Tri-Cities.

Williams’ letter to Chairman Lee alleges that landfill “has repeated, substantive violations dating back to 2014,” which resulted in two separate consent orders being executed against its operators in 2015 and 2017, serving as “repeated attempts” by Virginia DEQ “to resolve this non-compliance through settlement agreements with CFS.”

“Despite these agreements, CFS continued to have violations, including the exact same type of violations previously addressed in those agreements,” Williams said.

The matter was eventually referred to the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, who eventually filed a lawsuit against the facility over continued violations at the landfill. In that lawsuit, it was alleged CFS violated state regulations 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.

According to Williams’ letter, subsequent to the referral and CFS’ notification of the referral, “DEQ continued to identify violations at the landfill,” which culminated in the state’s late 2018 announcement of efforts to try to have the facility shut down.

In June 2019, it was revealed by Williams that a two day formal hearing on the landfill’s permit revocation conducted by a state supreme court hearing officer resulted in that officer concluding, “CFS’ ‘repeated violations demonstrate CFS’ disregard for these solid waste facility regulations.”

“Overall, the Hearing Officer recommended to the director that “CFS violated the Solid Waste Act, the regulations and Permit 228; that CFS’ violations are representative of a pattern of serious and repeated violations and there is sufficient basis in the record for the director to form the opinion that the serious or repeated violations demonstrate CFS’ disregard for the applicable legal requirements,” Williams detailed.

With those findings, in October 2019, Virginia DEQ announced the revocation of CFS’ solid waste permit.

“The impacts to the communities surrounding our permitted facilities is always of utmost importance to DEQ,” Williams said. “In its assessment of appropriate action, DEQ must consider not only the concerns voiced by citizens but the effects of a non-compliant facility operated by permittees found unwilling to comply with DEQ’s requirements,” adding the agency attended two community meetings to provide information and answer questions related to the Tri-City Landfill, seeking to listen and respond to many of their concerns.

Per Virginia DEQ’s Williams, while their agency handles permitting of landfills, solid waste planning and management is handed by localities and solid waste planning units. He confirmed the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority, the solid waste planning entity that serves the Metro-Richmond and Tri-Cities has been kept abreast of actions taken against the Petersburg landfill.

CFS has residential municipal waste collection contracts with CVWMA to dispose of residential trash in the Tri-Cities and Ashland, along with other contracts with public facilities in the region.

Dinwiddie County has a contract with CFS that sees the company hauling garbage away from the county’s near-dozen manned waste sites, along with some county buildings, such as schools.

Williams said it is not required that the trash be taken to the Tri-City Landfill, as is the case in Dinwiddie, with Administrator Massengill confirming the county’s trash is actually hauled to that same Lunenburg County facility.

“These contracts require CFS to dispose of municipal solid waste in a properly permitted and compliant disposal facility,” the letter detailed. “It does not require disposal in the Tri-City Landfill. CFS continues to collect municipal solid waste under its CVWMA contracts and hauls [it] either directly or via transfer station to their landfill in Lunenburg.”

Williams’ letter to Dinwiddie closed by noting CFS is actively appealing the revocation, which remains pending as of last month and the attorney general’s lawsuit against the landfill’s operators is “stayed pending the outcome of the appeal of the permit revocation.”

As he detailed last month to The Dinwiddie Monitor, Massengill reiterated one of his chief side effects of the landfill’s closure on the county, the influx of hundreds of trucks hauling trash and debris away from the facility by way of U.S. Route 460.

“When you are talking about 200 to 300 trucks a day traveling through our community, that is an issue for us, especially at the interchange of U.S. Route 460 and Courthouse Road,” he said. “We are going to see more of that,” explaining that they have seen an increase in instances of litter along New Cox Road.

“We already have had to increase litter pick-up along U.S. Route 460. That stuff is not supposed to blow out of their dump trucks but, it does. We have had an increase in citizen complaints about that and board members are getting calls about that route,” the county administrator continued.

In addition, he remains concerned about a possible trickle-down effect the facility’s closure could bring in terms of costs, with CFS’ parent company alluding to possible rate increases in the future due to the shift in the operations.

“The Tri-City Regional Landfill is the closest disposal site, and thus, the lowest cost provider for waste collection and disposal services for localities including Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Prince George County and Dinwiddie County,” Meridian Waste’s Mary O’Brien said in January. “Thus, waste collection and disposal rates for all of these communities can be expected to significantly increase during the next waste bid cycle.”

While no specifics about rate increases have been shared by Meridian Waste or local leaders, Massengill believes the financial impact on the company following the operational shift and how that could affect localities is an important conversation to have.

“Our trash was going to Lunenburg anyway so, that doesn’t hurt Dinwiddie County but, for CFS as a company, then you start asking about the costs they are now having to incur to haul this material in order to comply with the order and if there is a more environmentally-friendly way of addressing this on-site without having to truck all this trash through Dinwiddie County,” the county administrator shared.

“If the costs are going up for the company and Dinwiddie has to take some of that, we want to make sure we understand this issue very well,” Massengill closed.

At last check, Meridian Waste declined to comment directly on the situation aside from confirming their intention to appeal the revocation action and seek a stay to the state’s current requirements that forces the landfill to remove material and truck it to Lunenburg until their appeal can be heard.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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