King George County will pay an independent company $15,000 to sniff around the King George Regional Landfill.
County officials have received numerous complaints in the new year about unpleasant odors from the landfill, one of the largest in the state. On a particularly damp and foggy Saturday last month, the Fredericksburg Police Department even sent out an alert that the “noxious outdoor smell that is similar to a gas leak is actually the King George Landfill odor wafting into the city.” A second alert later rescinded the statement, saying the exact origin of the disagreeable smell could not be determined.
In light of the complaints, County Administrator Neiman Young suggested King George pay a third party to look at the landfill. Supervisors agreed, noting that residents have said that having Waste Management, which operates the landfill, investigate its own problems is similar to the fox guarding the henhouse.
An independent study “will help us immensely and give us a better perspective and better assurance that things are really safe,” said Supervisor Ruby Brabo.
On Tuesday, supervisors agreed to pay $15,000 to SCS Engineers, a firm with offices in Richmond and Reston. The group will look at the effectiveness of the landfill’s gas collection; operations, practices and protocols; integrity of the landfill’s daily, intermediate and final cover that goes over trash; and monitoring procedures by Waste Management and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that regulates the landfill.
The report will include recommendations that Waste Management and King George County can take to remediate any issues.
Supervisor Richard Granger, whose district includes the landfill, asked fellow board members to approve the expenditure, and the motion passed unanimously. Having an independent firm look over landfill practices would “give some peace of mind to citizens” and hopefully uncover an issue, if there is one, Granger said.
He believes “we’ve had an exceptional situation going on” in recent months because of record rainfall in 2018. Waste Management officials, who looked into recent complaints and found no issues with landfill operations, said the same.
The King George Landfill already digs wells to collect accumulated landfill gases sooner than state and federal regulations dictate—within two years of an area filling up with decaying trash rather than the mandated five years. Because of the complaints, Waste Management agreed to move up the schedule to install more wells sooner, county officials said.
Heavy rain last year caused extra odors as more moisture produces more leachate, a black, slimy liquid created when waste degrades and rain rinses over it.
Combine the dampness with relatively mild temperatures, when there weren’t good winds to blow away the odors that amass, and “conditions are conducive to the production of landfill gas,” said R. David Hartshorn, regional air compliance manager at the Woodbridge office of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.