BRISTOL, Va. — Bristol Virginia City Council met briefly Monday to approve an “emergency” contract to repair or replace pumps at the city landfill that state inspectors determined in May weren’t working properly.
The council held a called meeting at 8:15 a.m. and unanimously approved a $228,600 contract with Charles R. Underwood Inc. The contract calls for repair or replacement of pumps controlling gradient water and leachate — the substance formed when rainwater infiltrates and percolates through the degrading waste in a landfill.
Work is expected to start next week and take about seven weeks to complete, City Manager Randy Eads told the council.
“The DEQ sent the city a warning letter on May 27, 2021. The city’s and DEQ’s focus has been to get the odor issue under control,” Eads said Monday. “Recently, the city has had an issue with a pump that has concerned the city and DEQ. The pump is still operational, and there has not been issue with pumping the leachate and gradient water from the well. The city does not want the pumps to fail and then have significant lead times to repair and replace the pumps. It’s best to resolve this issue sooner rather than later.”
Mayor Anthony Farnum said the council was aware of the pump issues for some time.
“We knew that we had a fix that needed to be done. As (consultant Ernie Hoch) has said, we’re in ‘triage mode.’ Several things have been going on — adding cover, fixing the gas wells, adding new gas wells — it’s all important. It all needs to be done.”
In a city memo to the council dated Nov. 17, Eads said “immediate action must take place to repair the pumps for the gradient and leachate systems,” following a Nov. 5 email from DEQ to the city seeking “immediate action to repair the pumps.”
The city received quotes for the work from two of three vendors contacted, and the quote from Underwood was lower by about $146,000, a city document shows.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality identified issues with both pumps during a May inspection. The city was notified of the problems in a May 27 warning letter.
A problem with the top of the gradient pump — which controls water flowing to the sanitary sewer system — allowed water to come out of the top of the pump, according to the memo.
“Although the escaped gradient control water is captured and returned to the system via a drain in the concrete pad, the pump system was not operating as intended,” according to DEQ. “There was an odor observed that seemed to come from the gradient control water, that appeared soon after the pump was engaged.”
DEQ also determined in May that piping was broken in the leachate system.
“A bucket had been placed over the broken portion of the pipe,” according to DEQ. “A landfill gas smell seemed to come from the pipe area. The facility contact stated that the needed materials to repair the clean-out apparatus were on-site but it had not been repaired at the time of the inspection.”