BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Spec Rescue International (SRI) was on-site at the Bristol, Virginia landfill for a second-consecutive day on Tuesday. Teams of two divers descended down the 325-foot wet well in shifts, gathering samples and data.
“They’re going down there really to investigate the integrity of the structure itself and also look at the mechanical functions of what’s down there,” Draper Aden Associates Manager of Solid Waste and Environmental Services Ernie Hoch said.
Hoch said the work has been deliberate, as the crew has kept an eye out for a few specifics while inspecting the well.
“We really want to see how the pipes are functioning, how they’re draining into the wet well,” he said. “We’re confirming some measurements down there, some volumes that are down there. We’re checking to see whether or not the chamber itself is clear of any debris or grit, so it can pump down satisfactory to the lowest levels.”
The current probe of the wet well is not necessarily an investigation into the biggest culprit of the foul odor coming from the landfill.
“The smell is decomposing trash. I mean that’s the short answer,” Hoch said.
But, ensuring the proper function of the wet well is crucial to the overall success of the landfill project.
“There are some odors from the wet well, but that is not the main cause of the odors,” Hoch said. “The wet well is essentially the mechanical system behind draining the liquid out of the landfill that is critical. In order to eliminate the odors long-term, not only capturing the gas is important, but we have to get the liquid out.”
The removal of all the groundwater and leachate, or waste liquid, has proven to be a difficult task, due to the landfill being situated in a quarry.
“Every drop of rain since this landfill was built 20 years ago is in that landfill, less what we were able to pump out through the leachate system,” Hoch said. “That is really the problem. We are pumping surface water out now through the gas wells, which will again help to alleviate some of the liquid, slow down the decomposition and get this to operate in a more traditional landfill sense.”
A fully-operational wet well will also be necessary to lower the levels of benzene in the landfill’s wastewater. The city has already been fined $3,000 for excessive benzene level readings.
“In order to design a system, in order to remove the benzyne, we have to understand the mechanics here and the flows here to build that system, which is in the process of design,” Hoch said. “This is required in order to finish that design work.”
There is a potential for crews to continue inspecting the wet well on Wednesday, based on the findings from Tuesday.
News Channel 11 has still not received comment from the City of Bristol, Virginia on the inspection. A Saturday press release does state that the public will be updated about the inspection once work is complete.