Neighbors: Don’t expand the landfill

Published 11:30 pm Friday, April 1, 2011

A proposed expansion of the regional landfill in Suffolk was met with overwhelming opposition at a public hearing on Thursday.

Thirteen residents who live near the Southeastern Public Service Authority landfill turned out to express their concerns about a permit to expand the landfill another 56 acres. In all, about 50 attended the meeting at Nansemond River High School.

“I am totally against the landfill being expanded,” said Jerry Butler. “I think it would go against the health and wellness of people in the area.”

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Many of the speakers were concerned about an odor problem that residents in the area have been battling for some time. But others also were worried about potential decreases in their property values and wondered whether the city stands to gain anything financially from continuing to host the landfill.

“Do we have anything to gain?” asked Greg Dauphin. “Does it extend our free disposal?”

SPSA, the regional trash authority, wants to get all the permits in place to be able to build Cell 7 at the site off U.S. Route 58.

However, Cell 7 may not ever be built, said Rowland Taylor, executive director of SPSA. The construction of a new landfill cell takes several years, and the authority wants to be ready in case it’s needed, he said.

The authority currently is dumping refuse in Cell 6. However, the landfill currently is accepting mostly construction and demolition debris. All household waste is being sent to the Wheelabrator Technologies waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth, where it is burned.

As a result, the landfill may be able to last past 2018, when SPSA is scheduled to close up shop. But should something happen to Wheelabrator, having all the permits in place would allow construction of Cell 7 to begin immediately, Taylor said.

That doesn’t sit well with area residents, who have listened to numerous denials from SPSA officials during the past year and a half that the landfill is the cause of the odor problem.

“I was concerned about how it was handled,” resident William Freeman said. “They just did not want to accept responsibility for it.”

Councilman Leroy Bennett represents the Nansemond borough, where the landfill and the surrounding residential neighborhoods are located. He spoke at the meeting as a citizen.

“I have a big concern about the health of the people that live in the community,” he said. “I strongly oppose Cell 7.”

If the new cell is built, it would be the closest part of the landfill to Route 58, just on the other side of the trees that line the northern side of the road.

“What a wonderful greeting to people driving into Suffolk,” resident Martha Putnam said.

Still other citizens were concerned about the impact on nearby wetlands and about trash flying out of the trucks onto the road, as well as the odor problems.

“The trash has to go somewhere,” John Kirk said. “But there has to be a better way to handle the stuff that goes to the landfill.”

People who could not attend the meeting still can comment through April 15 at 5 p.m. To do so, include your name, address and telephone number and email comments to, fax comments to 518-2003 or mail them to Milton Johnson, Tidewater Regional Office, 5636 Southern Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23462.