To whom it may concern:
Herein I submit a petition to make five changes to the siting requirements for landfills in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the Code of Virginia § 2.2-4007. Petitions for new or amended regulations; opportunity for public comment.
A. Any person may petition an agency to request the agency to develop a new regulation or amend an existing regulation. The petition shall state (i) the substance and purpose of the rulemaking that is requested, including reference to any applicable Virginia Administrative Code sections, and (ii) reference to the legal authority of the agency to take the action requested.
Statutory authority of the agency to make the requested change: 9VAC 20; § 10.1-1402 Code of Virginia; 42 USC § 6941 et seq.; 40 CFR Part 258
All petitions pertain to 9VAC20-81-120. Siting Requirements for landfills
1) Petition to amend Siting requirement section C. 3. b. (2).
To read “within seismic impact zones.” No exceptions should be made.
The current requirements do not account for local geology. The intention of the regulation C.3.a. (5) (no siting on a fault) is to prevent construction of landfills in areas likely to experience significant ground forces. However, in Virginia, earthquakes do not typically occur on mapped surface fault lines referred to in the regulations. Therefore, the more appropriate standard among currently defined geologic boundaries is the seismic impact zone itself. One of the key findings from the Virginia Department of Minerals, Mines, and Energy 2017 report to FEMA of the state of knowledge of Virginia earthquakes (https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DGMR/FEMAFaultMapping.shtml):
“Mapped fault locations at the surface of the Earth do not correlate well with historic
epicenter locations in Virginia. Within the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone (ETSZ) and Giles County Seismic Zone (GCSZ), most earthquakes appear to
be related to movement along faults within basement rocks beneath a major discontinuity several kilometers within the earth’s crust. Within the Central Virginia Seismic Zone (CVSZ), some earthquakes do appear to be related to faults that extend, or may extend, to the earth’s surface. In many other cases, earthquake epicenters in the CVSZ do not align with mapped faults. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy, Division of Geology and Mineral Resources states: “Most earthquakes in Virginia are not associated with a known fault, but occur within three distinct seismic zones: ETSZ, GCSZ, and CVSZ. (https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/dgmr/EQHazardMapping.shtml)
In light of this information, it is not appropriate to use the locations of mapped faults to assign seismic hazard or risk. “
In addition to the above, while at best, the probability of earthquake events in Virginia Seismic Zones remains constant for the foreseeable future, landfill construction materials naturally deteriorate over time. Therefore, demonstrating that all containment structures, including liners, leachate collection systems, and surface water control systems, are designed to resist the maximum horizontal acceleration in lithified earth material for the site at the time of landfill construction is irrelevant as it does not ensure adequate groundwater protection over a period of time during which groundwater contamination starts and continues to occur.
Furthermore, as per Virginia Aquifer Susceptibility study by USGS in conjunction with Virginia Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water, aquifer in the Piedmont region of Virginia is 100% susceptible to contamination given a 0 to 50-year horizon (Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia). CVSZ is located within Piedmont region of Virginia. When this scientific finding is combined with EPA statement that “…even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration…” (EPA statement: Federal Register / Vol. 53, No. 168 Page 33345) it becomes abundantly clear that the groundwater contamination is only a matter of time.
Finally, given hydrological connectivity of groundwater in the James river watershed to the James river, groundwater contamination will inevitably result in contamination spreading to the James river. James river serves as a source of drinking water for millions of Virginia citizens (including Henrico county and the city of Richmond).
2014 USGS study of leachate contents established based on the study of 19 landfills across the United States found 129 of 202 pharmaceutical (prescription and nonprescription), household, and industrial chemicals in untreated leachate samples. The number of chemicals measured in the leachate samples ranged from 6 to 82 (with a median of 31). (https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-08-12-leachate_pharm.html)
If the proposed Cumberland County mega-landfill or another future landfill is permitted to be constructed within one of Virginia’s Seismic Zones, especially CVSZ, what will it cost Virginia taxpayers to treat water for all the additional contaminants found in landfill leachate including VOCs, heavy metals, PFAs a.k.a. “forever chemicals”, dioxins including PCBs etc. etc.
What is the plan to deal with practicably untreatable contaminants including pharmaceuticals? What will be the cost of litigation resulting from drinking water contamination?
Given all of the above, I propose to have the Siting requirement section C. 3. b. (2) read as follows:
3. Sanitary landfills.
b. No new sanitary landfill or expansion of an existing sanitary landfill shall be constructed:
(2) Within seismic impact zones.
2) Petition to add requirement to section C.3.a. (6) In any area vulnerable to liquefiable soil.
The presence of soil liquefaction, as was observed after the Mineral 2011 earthquake, is problematic for landfill siting for two reasons. One, it can lead to major structural failures under seismic loading and two, it makes prediction, tracking, and mitigation of any leaks difficult (Mowar and Liu, 2017).
3) Petition to amend requirement E. Wetlands
to read “E. Resource Protection Areas
1. Sanitary Landfills.
a. New sanitary landfills and expansions of existing landfills, other than those impacting less than 2.0 acres of nontidal wetlands, shall not be constructed in any Resource Protection Areas as defined in 9VAC25-830-80. Resource Protection Areas.”
The Code of Virginia establishes elsewhere (9VA25-830; Bay Management Regulations) the regulation for protection of lands in addition to wetlands (e.g. riparian forest buffers) in order to protect the Bay and water quality. The requested change is needed to align the regulations guiding the siting of landfills with this requirement to appropriately manage the lands of the Bay watershed.
4) Petition to add requirement of additional buffer space of 1000 feet for landfill construction over 2.0 acres adjacent to resource protection area/wetland/riparian forest, and require demonstration that there is not a practicable alternative elsewhere that is not located in an area that will threaten Resource Protection areas.
Landfills create a permanent impervious surface when closed, because an impervious liner is placed on top of the waste to prevent rainwater entering and trees are actively prevented in order to prevent penetration of the liner. Upgradient impervious surfaces in watersheds are well-known to degrade water quality in the accompanying streams and rivers, especially within 500 feet of a riparian forest buffer, but impervious surfaces over 5miles upstream can negatively impact water quality (Brabec, 2002). Further, impervious surfaces make the mitigation efforts of buffer creation less effective (ibid). The siting of landfills, particularly if very large, should be discouraged or better, disallowed in sensitive watershed areas.
C.4 will read as follows: “No new sanitary landfill area shall be constructed in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility. This includes the following aquifer systems:
Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, Piedmont”
Virginia Aquifer Susceptibility study by USGS in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water established that Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont aquifer systems are 100% susceptible to contamination given a 0 to 50-year horizon (Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia). The fact that Central Virginia Seismic Zone (CVSZ) is located within Piedmont region of Virginia further raises the already high risk profile of siting landfills in this region of Virginia.
Furthermore, when this scientific finding is combined with EPA statement that “…even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration…” it becomes abundantly clear that the groundwater contamination is only a matter of time.
Given hydrological connectivity of groundwater in the James river watershed (Piedmont region) to the James river, groundwater contamination will inevitably result in contamination spreading to the James river. James river serves as a drinking water source for millions of Virginia citizens. 2014 USGS study of leachate contents established based on the study of 19 landfills across the United States found 129 of 202 pharmaceutical (prescription and nonprescription), household, and industrial chemicals in untreated leachate samples. The number of chemicals measured in the leachate samples ranged from 6 to 82 (with a median of 31). (https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-08-12-leachate_pharm.html)
Again, I pose the question, if the proposed Cumberland County mega-landfill or another future landfill is permitted to be constructed within Virginia aquifer systems with 100% susceptibility to groundwater contamination, what will it cost Virginia taxpayers to treat water for all the additional contaminants found in landfill leachate including VOCs, heavy metals, PFAs a.k.a. “forever chemicals”, dioxins including PCBs etc. etc. The impact will be to both well water as well as public water supply systems.
What is the plan to deal with practicably untreatable contaminants including pharmaceuticals? What will be the cost of litigation resulting from drinking water contamination?
Section D aims to protect groundwater (including by means of monitoring wells) but cannot possibly accomplish this goal in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility for the following reasons:
On April 15, 2019 EPA issued Clean Water Act guidance on permitting requirements. It states: “Consistent with Congress’ vision for a strong federal state partnership to protect the country’s groundwater resources, the agency’s new guidance recognizes the state’s leadership role in protecting groundwater and provides certainty to states and others who implement and enforce EPA’s federal permitting programs. EPA’s Interpretative Statement will help inform federal and state regulators with future National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting and enforcement decisions.
States should continue to take an active role in regulating discharges to waters within their jurisdictions, as provided in state law and envisioned under the CWA.” (https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-issues-guidance-clean-water-act-permitting-requirements)
Based on the scientific evidence outlined above and State’s obligation to protect groundwater, the current version of the state law is inadequate for the purposes of protecting groundwater in the commonwealth of Virginia. Therefore, in order to protect interests and wellbeing of citizens of the Commonwealth and its future generations, I request the following requirement to be added to section C:
C.4 No new sanitary landfill area shall be constructed in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility. This includes the following aquifer systems:
Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, Piedmont.
Brabec, E., Schulte, S. and Richards, P. (2002). Impervious Surfaces and Water Quality: A Review of Current Literature and Its Implications for Watershed Planning. Journal of Planning Literature. Volume: 16 issue: 4, page(s): 499-514.
Mowar, O., and Liu, M. (2017). Seismic Response and Stability Analysis of Landfills. GeoEngineer.org. Full URL: https://www.geoengineer.org/education/web-class-projects/cee-549-geoenvironmental-engineering-fall-2017/assignments/seismic-response-and-stability-analysis-of-landfills. Accessed 6/21/19.
EPA Federal Register statement: Federal Register / Vol. 53, No. 168 Page 33345 - https://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/fedreg/fr053/fr053168/fr053168.pdf
Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste:
Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia:
9VAC20-81-210. Leachate Control.
A. Design plan. The design plan shall provide for leachate management. This design plan shall include the following:
B. Tanks and surface impoundments used for storage of leachate shall have a flow equalization and surge capacity at least equal to the maximum expected production of leachate for any seven-day period for the life of the facility estimated under subdivision A 1 of this section. Leachate storage capacity may not be considered to include leachate that may have collected in or on the liner system. Storage tanks and impoundments shall be aerated, as necessary, to prevent and control odors.
C. Surface impoundments used for storage of leachate shall be equipped with a liner system that shall provide equal or greater protection of human health and the environment than that provided by the liner of the landfill producing the leachate.
D. The collected leachate shall be:
1. Discharged directly or after pretreatment into a line leading to the publicly owned treatment works or other permitted wastewater treatment facility;
2. Transported by a vehicle to an offsite permitted wastewater treatment facility;
3. Recirculated within the landfill, provided that the irrigated area is underlain by a composite liner or other liner system approved by EPA or Research, Development, and Demonstration plan for recirculation, and that the operation causes no runoff, ponding, or nuisance odors;
4. Treated onsite and discharged into surface water when authorized under VPDES permit; or
5. Other methods of treatment or disposal as approved by the department.
E. The collected leachate shall not be discharged to an underground drain field.
F. Leachate seeps. If a leachate seep(s) occurs, the owner or operator shall repair the seep(s) and do the following:
1. Take all immediate steps necessary to protect public health and safety including those required by the contingency plan.
2. Take immediate action to minimize, control, or eliminate the seep, and to contain and properly manage the leachate at the source of the seep.
3. Any leachate released outside the lined area permitted for waste disposal shall be properly collected and disposed.
[Current language in §A(2) is stricken in this proposal.]
Justification: Landfills are particularly worrisome uses that carry a significant risk to water supply – both surface and groundwater sources. In 2003, the United States Geological Survey in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Health-Office of Drinking Water published Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia, 1998-2000, in which it concluded that groundwater within the study area had a 100% susceptibility to contamination over a 50-year period. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that “even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration.” 53 Fed. Reg. 33345.
The proposed amendment to 9VAC20-81-210 will not preclude the risk of failure of landfills, but the amendment would provide substantial reduction to the risk posed by landfills to potentially affected water supplies. Once groundwater is contaminated, there is no practical means of remediating the damage to that supply, which in many parts of the Commonwealth is the exclusive source of drinking water. Requiring a more effective leachate collection and removal system for all new landfills will reduce the impact of the failure of liners, which EPA considers inevitable as a consequence of natural deterioration.
Virginia Waste Management Board
July 1, 2019
Dear Board Members,
We are writing to express our concerns about the laws and regulations in Virginia regarding landfill construction and operation. Because we do not consider ourselves experts in this field, we will limit our comments to general observations concerning the laws of the Commonwealth in relation to surrounding eastern states.
A number of issues are suggested by the fact that out-of-state corporations find the laws of Virginia to be so deficient in relation to other states that it is economically feasible, and in fact more profitable, to transport waste from a 500 air-mile radius to a Virginia site, rather than to deposit the waste into the state of origin.
As a specific reference, there is a 1200 acre landfill with an 800 acre fill site proposed in Cumberland County. This facility is in contrast to an earlier, failed 1200 acre facility within one mile of the new proposed site that was designed for a mere 200 acre fill area.
We find it distressing that identical regulations apply to both landfills, one being 16 times geometrically larger than the other. How can the same regulations in regard to liner, buffers, water quality monitoring, historic sites, highway design, air quality monitoring, and local property value impact be equal between a 200 acre fill site and an 800 acre fill site? Virginia is trying to compare apples to apples, when we clearly have apple to orange facilities. How can it be that regulations in Virginia can be so lax that County Waste (or others) and their consultant engineers, could propose a landfill with the deficiencies of on site and nearby streams, wetlands, floodplains (that have not been revisited by FEMA in over 10 years) and still have confidence that their proposal will be approved? They are confident because our regulations are so obsolete compared to those of the home states in which they operate, that our communities are targeted for facilities that would not be approved in those home states.
At your June 10th meeting, we were pleased when your chairman stated that if Virginia regulations were more stringent than federal standards, that we should not revert to a lesser standard. We wish to take this opportunity to propose to this Board that you take the necessary steps to recommend to the DEQ and the state legislature that a comprehensive overhaul of Virginia's waste management regulations be instituted.
Virginia should be a leader in setting the standards for public health, safety, and environmental quality, rather than simply accepting mediocrity as an acceptable standard to accommodate out-of-state businesses.
Current member, Cumberland County Board of Zoning Appeals
Former member and Chairman, Cumberland County Board of Supervisors
Former member, Cumberland County Planning Commission
Former member and Chairman, Cumberland County Board of Zoning Appeals