Landfill stench returns

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2010

About a year after a mysterious odor first began to affect residents near the regional landfill, the trash authority that operates it continues to receive complaints about the stench, even after implementing control measures.

Bucky Taylor, director of the Southeastern Public Service Authority, said it has received “a couple of complaints” in recent weeks about the odor, even though a system to draw bad-smelling gases from the rotting trash has been fully installed.

“We’ve gotten the guys to up the pressure so they can pull more gas up the system,” Taylor said Tuesday.

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The landfill also continues measures it put in place earlier this year to control the smell, including using a smaller space to dump trash and covering trash with more material. In addition, the landfill no longer accepts household waste, which was believed to be a major contributor to the odor. Household waste instead is burned at an incinerator in Portsmouth.

Residents began complaining last fall about a bad chemical odor in the area. Some said it gave them skin and respiratory problems, as well as nausea and vomiting. Others said it was sometimes strong enough to wake them from their sleep.

In a February letter, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality pinpointed the landfill as the most likely source of the odor and gave the authority until October to have the gas collection system installed. The authority met that deadline, but the system apparently has not ended the complaints, though there are fewer complaints than this time last year, Taylor said.

“We still wonder if it’s all the landfill,” Taylor added, reiterating the doubts he’s expressed for the past year that the landfill is the sole cause of the problem.

“Generally, any landfill is going to have some [odor], but we’re trying to minimize it to the very minimum amount we possibly can,” Taylor said.