BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – After receiving a letter from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Bristol, Virginia Mayor Anthony Farnum announced that the city will comply with an upcoming action plan to address the odor coming from the city’s landfill and is working to stop the intake of waste at the facility.

“For more than a year now, our community has been dealing with this. Our community has been smelling this,” Farnum said at a press conference Wednesday. “Since the beginning, the city has been working with multiple engineering firms to figure it out.”

During the briefing, Farnum referenced an expert panel that visited Bristol, Virginia at the request of the DEQ. That panel was instructed to provide recommendations to the city on how best to rectify the issue of the landfill.

“They have released a report with their recommendations,” Farnum said.

Following the release of the expert panel’s report, Farnum said that the DEQ and the city’s engineering firms have analyzed the recommendations. He further stated that the city leadership and the DEQ remain in constant communication regarding the best way to proceed with the landfill issues.

“Referring to this expert panel report, the DEQ has told the City that we can do it and that we will do it,” Farnum said. “The city will follow the panel report, and we will follow the experts.

“In that report, one of the items is a recommendation to cease accepting all waste – to stop taking in trash. So we’re here today to announce that the City of Bristol, in accordance with DEQ and the expert panel report, will begin the process to cease accepting waste at our landfill as work continues to alleviate the issues.”

According to Farnum, the process of ceasing the intake of waste entails giving proper notice to all communities that use the landfill. Therefore, he said, residents of Bristol will continue to see trucks heading to the landfill for the time being as the process takes shape.

“The City of Bristol is committed to fixing this,” Farnum said. “This has really divided us. We’re committed to healing our community and being able to come together again. We’re committed to safely closing and capping this landfill for good.”

Farnum did not take any questions at the press conference, citing the legal nature of the situation.

The letter from the DEQ referenced the department’s Tuesday meeting, during which its leadership discussed enforcement of an action plan for the Bristol landfill.

It established timelines for some of the DEQ’s recommended mitigations:

  • Installation of the sidewall odor mitigation system within 365 days
  • Installation of thermocouples in the waste mass within 90 days
  • To cease the acceptance of off-site commercial/industrial waste within 90 days
  • To install adequate intermediate cover in accordance with the Virginia Solid Waste Management Regulations within 90 days

Joel Kellogg, president of HOPE for Bristol, said Wednesday’s announcement was a step in the right direction from the city.

“One thing that we have pushed for along with getting this thing closed is to heal our community,” Kellogg said. “Build that trust back that the City of Bristol, Virginia has lost, and I think this is a positive first step for that.”

The letter also said Bristol, Virginia is in the process of entering a consent order with the DEQ that would require them to implement all of the panel’s recommendations.

The city is required to present the DEQ with an action plan by July 6th. City officials previously said they expect to meet that.

But the DEQ must then return a fully executed enforcement action following a period of public comment. The letter said to expect that in August at the earliest.

Bristol, Virginia resident Chris Knupp lives off Shakesville Road next door to the landfill. He said he’ll be patient, hoping the city gets it right.

“We are going in the right direction,” Knupp said. “This is not an overnight fix, and we know that.”

Kellogg expressed concern with the timeline, believing it could be done quicker.

“If the proper focus is put on here and the funding is made available, then I would hope that they can cut that timeline in half at least and get some much-needed relief for our residents,” Kellogg said.

In May, Bristol, Tennessee filed a lawsuit against its sister city claiming that the landfill had violated the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and created a public nuisance. One day later, Bristol, Virginia proposed a settlement in which the city said it would comply with the acts and provide a report on plans to Bristol, Tennessee. The proposed settlement also included compensation in the form of $250,000 to Bristol, Tennessee for litigation.