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DEQ email calls landfill situation 'dire'

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BRISTOL, Va. — A recent Virginia Department of Environmental Quality email termed a situation with pumps at the Bristol, Virginia landfill as “dire,” prompting City Council action this week.

DEQ initially sent the city a warning letter May 27 after its inspectors found issues with the gradient water pump and leachate system during an April 16 inspection. The warning letter directed the city to resolve the issue or face financial penalties.

During another on-site visit this month, inspectors learned nothing had been done regarding the pumps, prompting DEQ Regional Director Jeffrey Hurst to express concern to City Manager Randy Eads in a Nov. 5 email.

“As you know we had some folks onsite again yesterday, however concentrating on the solid waste program areas during this visit. After their visit yesterday, it was brought to my attention the dire situation we have looming with the condition of the gradient control and leachate pumps,” Hurst wrote in the email.

“I fully recognize all the attention and efforts that have been made toward addressing the odor issues at the landfill but additionally we have a serious issue looming with these pumps. I cannot stress to you enough the urgency that is needed to address these absolutely critical infrastructure systems, immediately,” Hurst wrote.

Over the next two weeks, the city worked under the emergency provision of the Virginia Procurement Act. Rather than putting the project out for bids, it sought quotes from three firms, received two responses then called a City Council meeting Nov. 22, the day prior to its regular meeting, to approve a contract with Charles R. Underwood Inc. for $228,656 to conduct the work.

The contractor is expected to arrive next week, and that work is expected to be completed in seven to eight weeks, Eads told the City Council during its Nov. 23 meeting.

The original warning letter shows state law provides for a civil penalty of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the Waste Management Act. Additionally, the Waste Management Board has the authority to issue compliance orders and can impose civil penalties of up to $100,000.

On Monday, Eads said the city has concentrated on addressing odor concerns, including the drilling and connection of 20 new gas wells within the landfill.

“The pump is still operational, and there has not been [an] 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,” Eads told the Herald Courier on Monday.

The May 27 warning letter detailed issues that inspectors found.

“The pump being used to convey gradient control water to the sanitary sewer system was not functioning properly,” according to the letter. “The facility contact said there is a problem in the shaft of the pump and with the cowl or top portion which allowed gradient control water to come out of the top of the pump.”

That water was returned to the system via a drain, but “the pump system was not operating as intended.”

An odor was observed that “seemed to come from the gradient control water” after the pump was engaged.

Additionally the “leachate center pipe” in the northwest clean-out area was broken at the top, and a bucket had been placed over the broken portion, according to the letter. A landfill gas smell was also reported coming from that area. Materials to repair the pipe were present, but repairs hadn’t been made.

That information was included in a memo that Eads sent to the City Council in connection with Monday’s vote.

dmcgee@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2532 | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC | Facebook.com/david.mcgee.127

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