We’ve heard, “we are doing all we can do” about the landfill issue repeatedly from the city of Bristol, Virginia. It has become the city’s new slogan.
It was easy to believe city officials were doing all they could to solve the landfill problems. Who wouldn’t want to fix the smelly landfill as quickly as possible? Detractors of the city’s efforts were often met with, “What do you want? They are doing all they can do.”
But the confidence in the city’s handling of the landfill issue eroded significantly early Monday morning. It was discovered city leaders received a warning letter from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) back in May asking them to fix a leachate pump issue. It wasn’t until the city received a second email about the matter Nov. 5 that it jumped into action.
At least one council member even seemed to be confused about the delay in acting on the issue. Becky Nave, who joined the council in July, asked City Manager Randy Eads what took so long to address the issue after a warning letter was received in May.
Eads responded the city was focused on the odor issue.
They are doing all they can do.
But after a Nov. 5 email from DEQ about the pump, the leachate pump issue is now an emergency. So much of an emergency that council had to call a six-minute emergency meeting early Monday morning, although the board’s regular meeting was scheduled the next evening. After six months of delay, the issue couldn’t wait 36 hours?
What do we expect? They are doing all they can do.
This isn’t a pump that you go out to Lowe’s and pick up and install like a kitchen garbage disposal. This fix will take seven weeks and cost $228,600.
How many times have we been told by Eads that water is the enemy of the landfill? Yet the city waited six months after a warning letter from DEQ to take action on the pumps.
This isn’t the first time some puzzling landfill issues have popped up on City Council’s agenda. Council voted to connect the pipes to the new gas wells during a late October meeting, leaving at least one member of the board wondering why that step wasn’t included in the initial approval to drill the 21 new wells. It was kind of like council approving the purchase of a car and then having to approve buying an engine to put in the car. One action made no sense without the other.
But they are doing all they can do.
Eads has said repeatedly the city is listening to the experts. The experts at DEQ sent them a warning letter that said the city should replace a leachate pump, but the city didn’t do anything for six months. What experts are they listening to?
Eads said during the last City Council meeting that council has been advised about everything going on at the landfill since day one. Then why did this pump issue appear to be a surprise to at least one council member?
The city is currently advertising to hire a public works director and a solid waste disposal fund director that would provide operational oversight of the landfill. Council needs to take an active role in getting these positions filled and on board as quickly as possible.
We want to believe city officials are “doing all they can do,” but it is becoming more and more clear that all they can do is just not good enough.