Engineers say gas wells should help Bristol, Va. landfill smell

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BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — As some residents call for the closure of Bristol, Virginia’s landfill, two firms in charge of reducing odors from the landfill gave an update to city leaders Tuesday.

Representatives from Draper Aden Associates and SCS Engineers believe that recently added gas wells could help reduce the odors.

“We have every expectation that this will substantially reduce the amount of fugitive odors that are being released,” Ernie Hock of Draper Allen Associated told the City Council.

Hoch said 21 wells will be installed by Friday. Some will be operational within the month but all will be ready by next year.

The gas is created through chemical reactions caused by the presence of too much moisture deep within the trash pile. Due to the bowl shape of the landfill, rainwater has little ability to run out of the trash, accelerating decomposition and creating the stench.

The engineers said the wells should be able to pull over 1,000 cubic feet of gas out every minute. Right now, existing wells are pulling significantly less than that. The captured gas is then burned off or used to generate power on-site. They said that should eliminate some of the smell.

Residents on both sides of the state line have complained about the odor, some even calling for the shutdown of the landfill.

Closing the landfill, however, would be a long and difficult process that would require a unique plan, Hoch said.

The landfill was not meant to be closed so soon. The original plan included filling trash up to the top of the quarry where the trash pile sits. The pile still has over 100 feet to the top in some places.

A premature closure would require intensive planning and construction to ensure that gas and waste stay contained with specialized liners around the trash and water has the ability to effectively run off the containment.

Hoch said that process could take as long as a year and a half to complete.

Bristol, Virginia resident Michael Pollard said the City Council must start that process immediately.

“They need to start on getting those designs done now,” Pollard said. “We don’t want to keep putting things off.”

An early closure would also violate the landfill’s current closure permit with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The city would have to get a new permit and work closely with the department to get that approved.

A typical landfill closure requires 30 years of intensive post-closure care with the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure containment is working. With a premature closure, that level of oversight could continue even longer.

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