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Landfill panel is all-star team of experts

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The panel, established this month by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is charged with meeting with city leaders and their contractors then “providing practicable recommendations to the city moving forward to solve the odor problem,” according to DEQ.

The panel’s members are scheduled to meet with city leaders and its contractors from SCS Engineers and Draper Aden Associates on March 21 and 22.

The current schedule, according to DEQ, includes a draft report is expected to the expert panel by April 4. April 11 is the deadline for panel members to provide comments to Virginia Tech. The final report is to be completed by April 25.

Organized by DEQ and supported with emergency funds, the panel is led by Mark A. Widdowson, Ph.D., professor and department head of the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Widdowson joined the Tech faculty in 1993 with a focus on groundwater. He has served as a private sector contractor evaluating strategies to meet environmental remediation objectives at Superfund sites, served as a state expert on groundwater supply in eastern Virginia and provided peer review on public policy for the EPA and California State Water Resources Control Board, according to the university.

His research expertise includes transport of contaminants including PCBs and benzene in groundwater and soil.

Other panel members, in alphabetical order, include:

Robert C. Bachus, senior principal engineer of GeoSyntec Consultants, a worldwide consulting and engineering firm with a combined staff of 1,700 engineers, scientists, and related technical and project support personnel with more than 90 offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

Bachus, who is based in Georgia, has 30 years of professional experience focused on geotechnical engineering, geo-environmental engineering, and waste by-product characterization. His specialties include waste containment facility planning and design, site investigation and remediation. His practice areas include contaminated site assessment, cleanup and waste management, according to his corporate profile.

Craig H. Benson, Hamilton Endowed Chair in Engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Benson served as dean of UVa’s School of Engineering and Applied Science from 2015 to 2021.

Benson’s research in geo-environmental engineering includes design and assessment of environmental containment systems for municipal, hazardous, and radioactive wastes; reuse and recycling of industrial byproducts for sustainable construction applications and sustainability assessment of geological and civil engineering systems.

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Benson visited the city landfill in January and gave City Council a preliminary review of issues a few weeks ago.

Eric D. Chiado is vice president of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based firm with 30 U.S. locations. Chiado has 33 years of engineering and management experience in designing, permitting, and construction of municipal and industrial waste disposal facilities. He has provided comprehensive design, permitting, and management services to the waste industry to include preparing detailed landfill grading/filling plans and details, analyses and design of landfill liner systems, leachate collection, transmission, storage and pumping systems, gas extraction and destruction/utilization systems, and sediment and stormwater management systems. He has also prepared closure and post-closure plans for these facilities, according to his corporate biography.

Robert B. Gardner is senior vice president of SCS Engineers, a Virginia-based firm that has been a consultant on the city landfill for more than year. Gardner leads the firm’s nationwide solid waste management practice, including landfill engineering, landfill gas management, solid waste studies, landfill environmental systems, liquids management, operation and maintenance and construction. He works closely with SCS’s national and regional clients.

John T. Novak is professor emeritus of the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. Novak has worked in civil and environmental engineering and his research career has focused on the treatment of water, wastewater, municipal solid waste, and hazardous waste. He is a recognized expert in bio flocculation research in wastewater treatment, spanning activated sludge process, anaerobic digestion, dewatering, conveyance, and bio-solids storage, according to his profile.

Tony Sperling is an engineer and president of Sperling Hansen Associates, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm specializing in solid waste management and providing engineered and custom designed solutions for private and municipal clients since 1995, according to the company website.

Sperling is a landfill design specialist with a doctorate degree in geotechnical engineering. Over the past 18 years he has managed or participated as the lead engineer in more than 750 engineering design, development and closure projects at landfills, hydro-geotechnical investigations, environmental monitoring studies and other solid waste related projects for municipal and private sector clients. He specialized in landfill closure design.

Timothy D. Stark, Ph.D., professor of civil & environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with expertise in geotechnical engineering. Dr. Stark has conducted research on landfills with and without elevated temperatures for the last 25 years and on the stability of waste containment. During the last 15 years he has been studying the causes and effects of elevated temperatures in various types of landfills, possible remedial measures and the long-term durability of geo-synthetics subjected to elevated temperatures, according to his profile.

Todd Thalhamer is a civil engineer and president, Hammer Consulting Services of California, senior waste management engineer for CalRecycle and a retired firefighter. He has worked more than 30 years in the waste industry, managed environmental responses, large-scale debris operations, subsurface fires and hazardous waste removal projects. Thalhammer was among experts retained to resolve environmental issues with the Bridgeton, Missouri quarry landfill.

Michael G. Williams is senior environmental advisor principal and senior consultant of Golder Associates, Inc., of Richmond, Virginia. He has more than 30 years of experience in environmental services, geologic and hydro-geologic studies, waste management, site assessments, remediation, wetlands, and regulatory compliance. Among his specialties are site investigations for siting solid waste landfills, groundwater and landfill gas corrective action plans, environmental monitoring and reporting.

Eddie Wyatt is senior director of operations and maintenance at Carlson Environmental Consultants, a North Carolina-based firm with eight U.S. locations, according to the firm. Wyatt has over 17 years of experience in landfill gas operations and maintenance at more than 75 landfill gas collection systems across 10 states. His experience includes data management to ensure regulatory compliance.


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