BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – After months of an unbearable smell emitting from the Bristol, Virginia landfill, residents of Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia will meet in a public forum to share experiences and form a plan toward change.
The meeting, organized by community leaders, will take place Tuesday night. It will include the chance for residents to share their stories about how the smell has affected them.
The Bristol, Virginia City Council will also meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. This time, they will meet in the Virginia High School auditorium. Those in charge of reducing the smell are set to give a presentation on their progress.
Over the last month, Draper Aden Associates installed several new gas wells designed to extract gas from deep within trash piles. They said the smell comes from years-old trash that had its decomposition accelerated thanks to the presence of too much moisture.
Organizers of the community meeting said it is an important step toward building solidarity among residents that could lead to the eventual shutdown of the landfill.
Samuel Weddington is one of those organizers. He is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Bristol where he said the smell often affects services.
“We’re going to give a forum for the public to share what their experience of the landfill and the gases have been,” Weddington said. “We want closure of the landfill and we’re hoping that coming together in solidarity to share our story is an opportunity for the public to get behind the agenda.”
Residents said the smell is making a negative impact on their health and sense of community.
Katie Arnold of Bristol, TN said the smell wafts into her home just over a mile away from the dump. She said the smell actively prevents her family and neighbors from enjoying being outside.
“It is burning eyes, burning throat. You want to do anything you can to escape it,” Arnold said. “Just watching kids play in the neighborhood and as soon as the stench hits, everyone running inside to get away from it.”
Arnold said some of her neighbors have already left the area. Others have not been able to sell their homes because of the stench.
She said once the smell gets inside her house, it does not leave – leaving her home smelling like a dump.
Her children even reported the smell lingering inside their school. She said they get stomach pain and headaches from the stench.
Arnold is one of several Bristol residents with a “Dump the Dump” sign in their front yards.
Lawmakers are getting involved as well. Weddington said several lawmakers from both states are sending representatives to the meeting.
Tennessee State Sen. Jon Lundberg sent letters to several state agencies, including the Department of Health and the Attorney General, to see what the state can do in the matter.
“Can this smell be eliminated?” Lundberg asked. “If not, then I think they’ve got to take steps to move for a permanent closure. We’ve got to have solid information so those decisions can be made.”
Weddington thought the landfill could have long-term effects on Bristol if it keeps up the stench.
“You cannot develop a vision for prosperity in Bristol with all the problems that this landfill has sitting right there,” Weddington said.
The community meeting starts Tuesday night at 7 p.m.