SPSA waits on RePower

Published 8:50 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The February meeting of the regional trash authority included intense discussions about the future of the region’s trash disposal and an excess of leachate at the regional landfill in Suffolk.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority has contracted with a company called RePower South to provide trash disposal beginning next year.

The company plans to build a facility in Chesapeake, where it would convert the region’s waste to energy pellets. The pellets would then be used as an alternative fuel to coal.

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RePower failed to meet a January deadline to complete its financial close, and the company gave an overview in executive session last month about its failure to do so.

Some board members, such as William Sorrentino Jr., who represents Virginia Beach, were bothered by the missed deadline.

“I find it very bothersome we haven’t done anything,” Sorrentino, who said he didn’t attend the January meeting, said during this Wednesday’s meeting.

The missed deadline gives SPSA the right to terminate the contract with RePower. Sorrentino suggested issuing a show cause letter to have the company explain itself.

“To a large extent, that was the purpose of their presentation last month,” said Trey Huelsberg, an attorney for the authority. “SPSA’s termination right has ripened, but it has not been exercised or waived.”

The company is waiting on a financial agreement with a customer for the pellets it will produce before its financial close happens. They are currently aiming for a deadline by the end of next month.

Board Chairman Marley A. Woodall Jr., who represents Chesapeake on the board, said the board had received letters from Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. John Cosgrove asking the board to cooperate with RePower.

Also at the meeting, the board heard about an excess of landfill liquid — known as leachate — in two cells currently in use at the Suffolk landfill.

Joseph Readling, a vice president of HDR, a civil engineering firm, told the board there is no known leak that would allow leachate to escape into the groundwater.

“To our knowledge, everything is fully contained at the landfill,” Readling said.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been notified of the situation. SPSA has issued biweekly updates with corrective actions, which may take up to two years, Readling said.

“It is a condition that will take a substantial period of time to remedy,” he said.

The condition has likely been in existence for several years, he added. Pumping the maximum amount of leachate allowed per day from the cells hasn’t remedied the situation, so the authority is exploring options that would allow it to pump six times more.

He also said a new system for control and monitoring of the situation will be installed.

Readling said DEQ is considering enforcement options.