Chesterfield resident Carol Cornwell (left) speaks at a March 8 community meeting hosted by Matoaca District Supervisor Kevin Carroll (right)
Amid ongoing citizen concerns about odors generated by the Skinquarter construction demolition debris landfill, Chesterfield has formulated an action plan to help the privately owned facility keep the public informed about its remediation efforts, track complaints, facilitate off-site monitoring and explore ways of further supporting the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) regulatory role.
County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey presented the plan during the Board of Supervisors’ March 9 meeting, just one day after Matoaca District Supervisor Kevin Carroll hosted a community meeting for citizens to ask questions of landfill management and DEQ staff.
The county plans to enhance its environmental stewardship webpage as a repository for public information – including the details of Skinquarter’s newly mandated odor management plan and the timeline for its submission to DEQ.
The state agency’s Piedmont Region office has been receiving odor complaints from the public for about a year. Following a Feb. 7 inspection, it recently issued a report that requires the landfill to create a detailed plan for mitigating odors associated with its daily operations.
According to Shawn Weimer, a land protection manager for DEQ, state regulations give Skinquarter 90 days from the report’s March 3 submission date to present a draft plan.
“It’s up to the facility to implement technologies to address the odors. Once they develop that plan, they’ll submit it to DEQ and we’ll review it, then it will become part of their operating record,” Weimer said. “As we continue to do inspections moving forward, we’ll evaluate the plan and conditions on-site. If we’re still getting odor complaints and additional steps are needed long-term, we’ll work with the facility to have them make adjustments.”
Skinquarter presently is assembling a citizens panel, with the goal of having 3 to 5 community residents participate in a monthly meeting where they can receive updates on the landfill’s operations.
In conjunction with implementation of the odor management plan, Skinquarter officials have discussed creating an online portal for people to submit complaints.
Another facet of Chesterfield’s new action plan involves developing such a portal for complaints that will be forwarded to DEQ and the landfill’s management and tracked by the county.
The county's plan also includes ensuring Skinquarter follows through with its commitment to place gas monitoring stations on the property of interested residents, free of charge, to determine whether hydrogen sulfide is migrating off the landfill site and causing the odor that has been reported by people living in the western Route 360 corridor.
During last week’s community meeting, one of those residents, Carol Cornwell, said she and many others are willing to have the devices in their yards so Skinquarter can “collect valid data.”
“I know there are good faith efforts being put forth. But in order to document with data that leads to effective remediation, you have to get a handle on the scope of the problem,” she added. “All of us would be happy to help because we would love to see this go away.”
“We’d be more than glad to oblige that,” replied David Valdez, the landfill’s general manager and licensed operator. “We understand the seriousness of the odor. That is definitely some of the data we want to collect and have on hand.”
In response to citizen complaints, Skinquarter voluntarily installed a gas scrubbing and filtration system last September. It then upgraded to a larger unit in November.
It also conducted onsite and offsite testing for hydrogen sulfide, a gas that is produced as sheetrock decomposes in the landfill. Valdez noted it is detectable, as a rotten egg smell, at very low concentrations.
According to the terms of its state permit, Skinquarter is limited to disposing of mostly inert construction-related materials, such as lumber, brick, wire, roofing shingles and pipes. It is not allowed to accept municipal solid waste, such as household trash, or asbestos. It also does not accept loads that contain only sheetrock; such material is limited to 3 to 4% of typical loads.
Neither DEQ nor county inspectors have found any evidence of the landfill accepting unpermitted materials.
Weimer, however, acknowledged that DEQ has only two inspectors for the entire Piedmont Region, which includes 80 solid waste management facilities across 30 localities.
As another element of its action plan, Chesterfield will work with the state agency to craft a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which would define the county’s authority to act as an agent of DEQ and “spend the time and attention that is needed,” Casey said.
Chesterfield would prefer that the state government allocate the resources necessary for more frequent inspections, but is prepared to assume additional responsibilities that can be outlined in an MOU. That could include creating a new staff position or hiring a contractor dedicated to an environmental stewardship role.
Under Virginia law, the authority for regulating landfills falls to DEQ. County staff currently are limited to inspecting the Skinquarter facility for compliance with the conditions of its 1988 zoning.
The landfill opened in 2019 and is owned by WB Waste Solutions.
At the March 8 community meeting, Carroll noted he has consulted with the county attorney to determine Chesterfield’s options if Skinquarter is unable to successfully remediate the odor issues.
Chapter 11, Article VII of the Code of Chesterfield states that the landfill’s operations must pose “no substantial present or potential danger to the health, safety or welfare of citizens and the environment.”
“Those are things we’re being prudent on and making sure we’re looking at. But I think, again, [Skinquarter officials are] making a good faith effort to figure it out,” Carroll said. “We need to give them a chance and see if they can mitigate this.”