The Cumberland County, Va., board of supervisors has approved a conditional land use permit and rezoning of 1,144 acres for a landfill. The board has also signed a host agreement with County Waste, which will own the facility.
The site, permitted to accept up to 5,000 tons per day, will likely average about 3,500 tons per day, says Bill Osl, a Cumberland County board of supervisors member. And it will bring a fair amount of revenue and other payoffs for what Osl describes as a poor county where residents have no curbside pickup of trash or recyclables; they haul their materials to transfer stations at three closed dumps.
But there are opposers to what will be a huge operation, which will eventually house a recycling facility and a waste-to-energy facility.
Cumberland County will receive between $1.4 million and $2.8 million per year in host fees. Green Ridge LLC, established to run the site, will also pay Cumberland County $25,000 for environmental science education programs and $25,000 for recreational programs each year, in addition to 10 percent of methane gas royalties on the gas that is collected at the landfill.
County Waste of Virginia set sights on Cumberland County because it fit in with the company’s current market focus on central and southwestern Virginia, but it believes it can also support the jurisdiction’s needs and goals, says Jerry Cifor, senior vice president of County Waste of Virginia and Green Ridge.
“There are a number of other facilities in central Virginia that are quickly approaching maximum capacity, increasing the demand for new disposal capacity. Additionally, the county has long recognized significant economic and other benefits that a landfill would bring,” says Cifor.
Cumberland County’s interest in expanding its waste management infrastructure dates back to 2006, when Allied Waste Industries got a permit to build and operate a regional landfill there.
Before cell construction began, Republic Services bought Allied and decided it didn’t need the capacity that the landfill would provide, says Osl, explaining Republic put a deed restriction on the property prohibiting construction of a landfill there, though the county got progressive payments over time.
“That same year, we did a self-assessment to determine the county’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. We are a poor, rural county with little business to support our economic base. And we have a lot of limitations to attract businesses, including lack of infrastructure, no interstate, no rail and a limited skilled workforce,” says Osl.
“But we have a lot of open land and low taxes,” he adds. “So, a landfill seemed like an ideal plan. We saw we could take less than 1 percent of our land to operate the landfill and have revenue to preserve agriculture. We saw we could further lower taxes, and it would help pay for public safety and education, as well as commercial economic development because we could put in infrastructure.”
Still, it would be years from the 2006 self-assessment before plans for a new site, which now awaits Virginia Department of Environmental Quality approval, would materialize.
Neighboring Powhatan County has protested the landfill. As currently planned, the property will reportedly be within a few hundred feet from the county border.
Powhatan County officials declined comment to Waste360 but, according to Osl, they expressed concerns at public meetings about traffic on the Route 60 corridor.
“I said if they see this as a potential problem, they should talk to their local board of supervisors who approved other land uses that put a lot of vehicles on the road. The Virginia Department of Transportation says their roads can accommodate the project,” he says.
Cumberland County citizens have also stated concerns. A judge recently denied one citizen’s written request, which included citizens’ signatures, that a question be added to the November general election ballot asking if the board of supervisors should be allowed to approve the landfill without a referendum.
“We hear fears about air quality, water quality and groundwater contamination,” says Osl. “We’ve taken steps in the host agreement to prohibit waste that would cause some issues, such as hazardous materials like medical waste, municipal sludge, sheet rock and radioactive materials. Beyond that, there are terms we spelled out to minimize air quality and odor issues.”
Most recently, three amendments were approved:
- Elimination of the use of fly ash as cover.
- County Waste of Virginia be the contract guarantor (as opposed to Green Ridge).
- A property value agreement and property purchase agreement providing nearby residents an opportunity for the company to purchase their land or to be guaranteed value over time.