BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – A judge has ordered the ongoing lawsuit centered around the Bristol, Virginia Landfill to be taken before a magistrate judge for mediation.
According to a court order from Senior U.S. District Judge James P Jones, the decision was made after Bristol, Va. moved to take the proceedings to mediation. Jones wrote Tuesday in his order that Bristol, Tennessee – the plaintiff in the lawsuit – objected to the decision.
The order states that even if one of the parties in an ongoing lawsuit opposes moving to mediation, the court may overrule and grant a motion like it has in this case.
“It may be that an agreed settlement of this case is not feasible at this time, as Bristol Tennessee contends,” Jones wrote. He went on to state that it is also unclear when and if the efforts made by Bristol, Va. will result in the odor disappearing.
However, Jones ultimately cited the claims of Bristol, Va. leadership who have stated that the cost of the lawsuit is a “burden on both cities and ultimately their taxpayers.”
The sister cities will now discuss resolutions to the lawsuit under the supervision of a magistrate judge, and Jones hopes that those discussions could result in an outcome that satisfies both parties.
“At worst, they will enlighten each side as to the other’s primary concerns, thus laying the groundwork for a future agreement,” Jones wrote.
The case was referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent, who will conduct the mediation efforts.
Bristol, Va. previously asked the court to dismiss the portion of the lawsuit in which Bristol, Tenn. claimed the landfill was a “public nuisance,” but that request was denied in late December 2022.
The lawsuit has been ongoing since Bristol, Tenn. filed it in May, claiming the odor coming from the landfill was negatively impacting the lives of its residents. The landfill ceased intake of waste in September, and Bristol, Va. leaders have continued efforts to attempt to mitigate the smell.