Cause is known, fix now needed

Published 9:25 pm Friday, February 19, 2010

We are now forced to ask a simple, but definitive question of the Southeastern Public Service Authority.

SPSA, if you claim the strong methane smell reportedly emanating from your landfill is not your problem, then prove otherwise. If the gas odor — which has sickened residents who live nearby — is not the result of rotting garbage in the landfill that you operate, then prove otherwise.

What we ask — along with the more than 100 who attended Thursday’s public hearing discussing the issue — is that you come up with a better response and claim than simply saying that you are “unsure” the smell is coming from the landfill.

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Although that may ultimately be your position — that you are “unsure” — it would seem that air inspectors from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality seem to think otherwise.

In their report on Thursday, inspectors claimed unseasonably wet weather has caused garbage in what is known as the Cell VI area of the landfill to decompose much faster than expected and long before SPSA had arranged for needed filters to be installed.

Maybe SPSA’s response should have been to blame Mother Nature. At least it would have been a better response than saying they were “unsure.”

Operating a landfill is not a clean business. Landfills stink, and there is little that can be done to change that fact.

But when residents who live in the surrounding areas complain about intense, chemical odors and report illnesses, burning eyes and throats for months, then SPSA is almost compelled to be better prepared for the public meeting than to say they are “unsure.”

We applaud the efforts of the residents — and their elected council members — for arranging this public meeting and getting Virginia DEQ involved. It is only with their involvement and their testing methods that we seem to have uncovered the mystery behind what is causing these odors.

Thursday’s meetings and the reports released seem to clearly end that discussion and place the responsibility of fixing the problem squarely at the feet of SPSA.

Now, the pressure is on SPSA to quickly install those filters and to end the debate over whether it is their problem to fix.