Landfill operator agrees to settlement with State

Original story by The Progress-Index.

By Michael Buettner
Posted July 6, 2017

CFS will underwrite ‘Clean Community’ events as part of agreement

PETERSBURG — The operator of the landfill that serves the Tri-Cities region will be undertaking community projects in the year ahead as part of their effort to bring their waste disposal site into full compliance with environmental regulations.

CFS Group, the Petersburg-based operator of the Tri-City Regional Landfill off Puddledock Road in Petersburg, recently agreed to a consent order with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, that includes a “supplemental environmental project,” or SEP — an environmentally beneficial project undertaken in place of a cash fine.

President Rob Guidry said the company has been working steadily to bring its Petersburg site in line with the terms of a consent order issued in September 2015 after a landslide on the waste mound in May of that year.

As part of that agreement, Guidry explained, “We were asked to relocate some coal ash that we used in construction” of retaining walls and other structures within the landfill. Under the terms of the 2015 order, CFS had agreed to reconfigure the landfill, including reducing the angle of the sloping sides to help prevent any future landslides.

Coal ash, the residue left after coal is burned in coal-fired power plants, has been widely used as a landscaping fill-in material, and is also recycled into building materials such as concrete and wallboard. However, “Coal ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Without proper management, these contaminants can pollute waterways, ground water, drinking water and the air.”

In September 2016, while a subcontractor was in the process of moving the ash, a heavy rainstorm hit the area, and some of the coal ash “mixed with stormwater, discharged over the liner, flowed into the woods, reached the Appomattox River and inundated nearby wetlands with up to 10 inches of coal ash,” according to the proposed consent order.

About 50 cubic yards of coal ash escaped from the lined area of the landfill, and of that amount, about 1 cubic yard entered the river, according to DEQ. Altogether, “The area impacted was approximately 0.5 acres, of which an estimated 0.15 acres was open water and/or forested wetlands.”

The new consent order, which is in the process of being finalized, is basically an update of the 2015 agreement that incorporates the coal ash issue and other compliance matters such as the angle of slope, Guidry explained.

“We’ve been working to correct these things,” he said. “We’re very serious about it. We want to do the right thing for the facility and the state. We and DEQ have been on the same page since day one. But you can’t fix it overnight. It’s a long-term process.”

The new consent order calls for CFS to pay a $125,000 civil fine for violating state environmental regulations. Of that amount, $35,000 in cash is to be paid within 30 days after the agreement goes into effect.

However, CFS will pay the bulk of the charge, $90,000, in kind through a supplemental environmental project: sponsoring “Clean Community Days for locations in the metropolitan Richmond area for the disposal of hazardous waste, tires and specific items such as household and white goods [i.e., appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators] without charge,” according to the agreement.

Virginia is one of many states, as well as the U.S. government, that allow facilities like landfills to undertake SEPs in lieu of paying cash fines. The General Assembly enacted legislation allowing SEPs in 1997, stipulating that they address community needs such as “public health, pollution prevention, pollution reduction, environmental restoration and protection, environmental compliance promotion, and emergency planning and preparedness.”

Guidry said undertaking the project in lieu of cash was a good fit to CFS’s longstanding business philosophy. “We want to give back to the community,” he said.

• Michael Buettner may be reached at mbuettner@progress-index.com or 804-722-5155.