The Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board will soon begin work to expand the regional landfill in Stafford County.
Joe Buchanan, director of the Rappahannock Regional Landfill, which serves Stafford and Fredericksburg, said the new landfill cell is a “highly engineered” system that spans 7.21 acres and should absorb 5 years worth of refuse.
Unlike trash dumps of the past, today’s landfill cells take years of planning and are engineered to protect groundwater from contamination, while also capturing harmful gasses.
The new cell, which is slated for completion this fall, will be designed to hold 1.2 million cubic yards of waste. That equates to nearly 86,000 trucks filled to capacity.
Buchanan said the typical lifespan of a landfill cell is five years, and the construction of a new cell at the facility is necessary because the active cell is nearing capacity.
Work is expected to begin this spring and should take four to five months.
“It’s all dependent on the weather and [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] approval along the way,” said Buchanan.
The Virginia DEQ monitors the progress of the work.
After dirt is compacted on the site, a geosynthetic liner is installed at the base of the cell to isolate the landfill’s contents from the environment. The complex system will also remove leachate—the liquids that pass through collected refuse over time—from the cell. When the cell reaches the end of its life, another geosynthetic liner will be applied to the top of the cell to further isolate its contents from the environment.
“Under DEQ requirements, they come out every step of the way and there’s testing done,” said Buchanan. “When the liner is seamed together, they come back out and test every seam. We can’t go to the next level until everything is approved.”
In addition to collecting leachate, landfill gas—a mixture of methane and carbon monoxide produced by the waste—is also collected and converted into electricity and distributed to the power grid. Buchanan said the two generators on the grounds of the landfill produce enough energy to power about 1,000 homes.
The landfill’s most recent cell cost $5 million to build, Buchanan said, and he estimates the cost for the new one will fall somewhere between $2.5 million to $4 million.
The landfill does not rely on outside assistance for funding. All expenses are paid with money collected through commercial and residential user fees.
The landfill brings in about $8.9 million annually in user fees, and its 38 employees serve over 179,000 residents in Stafford and Fredericksburg.
Altogether, the landfill has 13 parcels of land that it considers landfill cells. Since opening in 1987, seven of those cells have been used, leaving six, which equates to about 30 years of landfill property remaining for future use.
Although the landfill has additional land that it can tap into if needed beyond the 30 year mark, Buchanan said every citizen’s goal today should be to reduce the amount of refuse and recyclables that go into the landfill.
“We don’t know where we’ll be technology-wise in 30 years,” said Buchanan. “If landfills are still an option at that point, we will have the land available.”