BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Just over one month after the Bristol, Virginia Landfill closed for intake, some residents said the smell has not improved, and it’s left them wondering when they could see some relief.

Bristol, Virginia closed the landfill for further trash intake on September 9 after months of pressure from residents on both sides of the state line.

The city now takes its trash to a landfill outside Blountville.

The Bristol landfill emits a smell that residents said invades their homes, impacts their quality of life and takes a toll on the mind and body.

“A lot of people have a misconception that the landfill closed, that the smell is going to go away,” said Mike Dean, a Bristol, TN resident and Vice President of HOPE for Bristol, a group that has brought awareness to the landfill issue for months.

HOPE for Bristol President Joel Kellogg said the smell had actually worsened since the landfill’s closure. He attributed that to changes in weather from summer to fall.

“The summer was better than the winter [last year]. As the seasons change and it cools off, the inversions are more prevalent, and the emissions are going to spread,” Kellogg said. “I woke up [at] 1:30 this morning just dry as a bone. My sinuses, my eyes burning. You get brain fog.”

The City of Bristol, Virginia has continued its work to implement the recommendations of an expert panel assembled by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Bristol, Virginia also faces a lawsuit from its sister city in Tennessee. A preliminary injunction in that suit set deadlines for some aspects of the expert panel to be implemented.

On Monday, Bristol, Virginia City Manager Randall Eads said in an email that the city had met an Oct. 10 deadline to install an intermediate cover on top of the landfill. According to Bristol, Virginia’s plan of action in response to the expert panel, the cover consists of 12 inches of soil on top of the entire landfill.

A representative for the City of Bristol, Tennessee said the city’s engineering consultant would be inspecting the cover to see if it meets the injunction’s requirements.

But for well over a year and a half, the smell has been a problem. Dean said he’s never built up a tolerance for it.

“Every time I smell it, it still brings it back as it was the first day I smelled that landfill,” Dean said.

HOPE for Bristol led a campaign in late 2021 to provide air purifiers to people free of charge. Kellogg said they have mixed results, but it’s better to have them than nothing else to mitigate the smell.

“They help some. They take the edge off,” Kellogg said. “The air purifiers run pretty much 24/7. We air out the house when we have an opportunity.”

Kellogg said HOPE for Bristol could soon be providing replacement filters for people that need them. With the landfill closed, Kellogg said his focus has shifted to mitigating the odors, but he worries action from the city will not come soon enough.

Kellogg said the city’s immediate focus should be fixing the sidewall liner that surrounds the quarry-style landfill. The expert panel found the current sidewall liner system had likely failed, and said that “chimneys” formed as a result were a primary cause of foul odors escaping the landfill.

“The sidewalls are the biggest concern. That’s the biggest area of opportunity for the city to be focused on,” Kellogg said.

Bristol, Virginia has a June 14, 2023 deadline to implement a new sidewall liner system per the preliminary injunction in the Bristol, Tennessee lawsuit. The city’s plan of action includes testing a pilot sidewall liner system before a large-scale system is implemented.

Eads was asked about any progress made with the sidewalls but did not elaborate.

“We are continuing our efforts to make upgrades to the landfill monitoring systems as well as address odor concerns,” Eads said.

The expert panel also recommended the implementation of a community outreach program on the landfill, but Dean said he feels left in the dark.

“The lack of communication that they showed to the citizens on both sides, the lack of responses, the lack of work. I don’t trust them one bit,” Dean said.

Eads said the city plans to hold a public meeting to update citizens on progress at the landfill at some point in the near future.

Kellogg said HOPE for Bristol is holding a joint community meeting with the Bristol Area Ministerial Alliance on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. inside the Bristol Train Station.

“We’re going to present the community with the information that we have, where we are, where we need to be going forward,” Kellogg said.

He said Bristol, Virginia city leaders were invited to hear concerns from affected residents.