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Odor improves, SPSA says

The regional waste disposal authority entered into an agreement Wednesday with a company to install gas collection wells in the Suffolk landfill, putting it on track to meet an October deadline imposed by the environmental quality department.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality set the Oct. 1 deadline in a warning letter sent to the Southeastern Public Service Authority in February. The letter pointed a finger at SPSA’s Suffolk landfill as the most likely source of a pungent odor that plagued residents in the Nansemond Parkway and Wilroy Road areas for months.

A temporary gas collection system has since been put in place. Negotiations to install the permanent system have been ongoing. Meanwhile, the number of complaints has dropped considerably, SPSA executive director Rowland Taylor said.

“We received one call only since last meeting,” Taylor told the board of directors Wednesday. Its last meeting was June 23.

That phone call, Taylor said, came Tuesday morning. Inspectors from the environmental quality department determined the odor was coming from nearby marsh areas at low tide, he added.

Taylor said he believes the measures the authority has taken to curb the smell — installing temporary gas collection wells, using a smaller space to dump trash and covering the trash with more material, among other things — helped the odor problem.

“Let’s put it this way — there’s no smell right now,” Taylor said. “There’s no question the things we’ve done and are proposing to do should help out in the future.”

After a closed-door meeting Wednesday, the authority decided to enter into an agreement with Suffolk Energy Partners to install the permanent collection system in the current cell of the landfill.

“This should put us on the path to be able to meet the Oct. 1 deadline,” Taylor said.

Since the waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth was sold to Wheelabrator in late April, no household waste has been coming to the Suffolk landfill.

“Basically, only a little bit of construction and demolition debris is going into the landfill,” Taylor said. The absence of household waste also should help the odor problem, he added.

In other business at the SPSA meeting, officers were elected for the new fiscal year. Joseph A. Leafe of Norfolk was re-elected as chairman, and Everett C. Williams Jr. of Franklin was re-elected as vice-chairman. Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn was appointed to serve on the executive committee.