BRISTOL, Va. — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has rejected a call by some residents to pull the city’s landfill operating permit.
Responding by letter posted Monday on the city’s website, DEQ Director David Paylor outlined the steps his agency is taking to monitor ongoing work at the city landfill designed to reduce or eliminate emissions causing widespread odor complaints. In late October, several residents of both Bristols wrote Paylor urging the agency to act on the city’s permit.
“VADEQ is undertaking formal enforcement actions at this time and although revocation of permits is permissible, the conditions of this operation has not yet reached that stage,” Paylor wrote. “It is the department’s position that all regulated entities must have due process and an opportunity to return to compliance, prior to revocation proceedings. …The city is working to resolve the alleged non-compliance and will be required to control and operate the facility in accordance with their permits and other applicable regulations within VADEQ’s authority.”
DEQ has issued three notices of alleged violations against the city and is “working with the city to resolve these issues as part of that ongoing enforcement action,” Paylor wrote.
“We appreciate your concerns and will continue to be open about discussing the issues associated with the Bristol area landfill, participate in any way we can to add value to the conversation and help rectify the situation as quickly as possible, and within our authority to do so,” Paylor wrote.
Rev. Sam Weddington, who was among those who submitted the initial letter, responded to Paylor.
“On behalf of myself and those I work with, I very much want to thank you for taking the time to write this response. Truly, we appreciate your attention. As you suggest in your letter, we, too, will wait and watch to see whether the city of Bristol, Virginia can return the landfill to a state of compliance. Believe me when I tell you that we are truly desirous of such a positive outcome,” Weddington wrote.
In the letter, the DEQ director also cited the city’s current efforts to complete a series of gas wells, connect them to the existing gas collection system and install pumps to remove excess water.
“Unfortunately, in the near term, with such activity and weather patterns this time of year, there will likely be an increase in odors until all of the landfill gas enhancements are complete and fully functioning,” he wrote.
That work is expected to be completed in December.
Weddington also asked the DEQ to advocate for whatever relief the city can provide to needy residents in the area.
“If you or others have any leverage whatsoever in the matter, please encourage the city or other appropriate agencies to provide some level of relief for the poor and vulnerable in the community who cannot afford help,” Weddington said. “In my own case, I can buy air filters, leave the area overnight if it is bad, etc., as I have been blessed with resources. Moreover, our church and other organizations are trying to provide some relief, but the need is beyond our capacity. We have many who are truly impoverished and unable to take such measures, and any help along those lines would be greatly appreciated.”
In regards to concerns about elevated well temperatures, Paylor said DEQ staff members “noted very wet conditions” within the new wells, but plastic components “removed from the new well drillings were observed to have maintained their original color and appeared to be unaffected by any heat.”
He said the new wells were “strategically placed,” and data from them will inform future requirements or “paths forward.”
DEQ has also been actively involved in ambient air sampling efforts, in conjunction with the EPA, Paylor wrote.
The EPA recently completed a second round of air monitoring but hasn’t yet released its report.