King George County Landfill Chosen for Pentagon Debris

At the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C., plans are underway to transport debris from the disaster site to a Waste Management landfill in King George County, Va.

Waste Management Inc., Houston, is working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Richmond, and surrounding communities to ensure their full support to use the landfill. “It has been very well-received so far,” says Sarah Voss, Waste Management's spokeswoman.

To prepare residents for the shock associated with a mysterious convoy of waste trucks and drivers donning particle masks and possibly chemical suits, the company has maintained close communication with its neighbors, “so everyone knows exactly what we are doing,” Voss says. “We have talked to a lot of community leaders and held a public forum so concerns could be addressed.”

However, one reason Pentagon officials chose the King George site is because of its sparsely populated surroundings. “It's a very serene environment, out in the middle of nowhere,” Voss says.

To store the debris, one cell of the landfill, which is segregated from the rest of the landfill's contents, will be used. According to Voss, “If for some reason [officials] need to excavate the waste, it will all be together in one part of the cell.”

To date, Waste Management has provided 31 roll-off containers to transport the expected 18,000 tons of debris from the Pentagon. Security surrounding the shipments will be tight to avoid theft.

To further prevent waste mishandling, Waste Management officials have developed a number of security procedures to handle the debris after it is inspected onsite and before it is buried and capped at the landfill. “We have a database comprised of all of our drivers' information so that we know what types of licenses they have, or receive notifications about licenses they have applied for,” Voss says. “And in our eastern region, we have rolled out a program by which drivers have identification cards, which they must swipe prior to accessing the landfill.”

Additionally, landfill district managers have been put on heightened alert to watch for anything suspicious surrounding drivers and their deliveries, stemming from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) report that a number of the World Trade Center- and Pentagon-suspected hijackers' associates recently have attempted to acquire hazardous materials trucking endorsements. “We make sure that we know where all of our trucks are at all times because the FBI had a concern about any type of vehicle that might be able to gain access to secure areas [such as] ambulances, fire trucks, police cruisers and even waste trucks,” Voss says.

Waste Management also already has in place a contract with a security company to provide full background checks on all new hires.

Safety also will be an important issue, according to Rich Cahill, spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C. Workers at the landfill likely will wear Level C protective gear, which includes a Divex suit, gloves, goggles and air-purifying respirators designed to protect against dust particulates, he says.