Board hears leachate update

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, July 1, 2017

An excess of landfill liquid is starting to come under control at the Regional Landfill located in Suffolk, according to a report at the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s board of directors meeting on Wednesday.

Leachate, as it’s called, is a natural occurrence in landfills, but it is supposed to be pumped out regularly and kept under a certain amount. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulates leachate and says landfills can have no more than 12 inches of it.

But the Southeastern Public Service Authority landfill in Suffolk had about 30 feet of it in two different cells when the problem was first discovered earlier this year. The DEQ in March issued a notice of violation to the authority.

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Normally, the landfill flips a switch and pumps up to 50,000 gallons per day straight to the Nansemond Treatment Plant. But that would not have solved the problem quickly enough, if at all, so the authority had to explore other options.

A local company was hired to pump the liquid and haul it to other treatment plants, and it seems that method is working.

“Pretty significant progress has been made in the last month,” said Jeff Murray with the consultant firm of HDR.

All sections of Cell VI and most in Cell V are now back within the regulation of less than a foot of leachate on the liner. However, one section of Cell V remains with 23 feet on the liner.

A draft consent order from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, a result of the regulation violation, is now under public review.

The total cost of solving the leachate issue is now expected to be about $5.7 million, a decline from the $11.4 million previously estimated. Most of the savings came from the success of the pump-and-haul operation, meaning contract extensions may not be needed. About $3.3 million has been spent so far.

However, another unknown continues to haunt the authority. Hampton Roads Sanitation District is in the midst of implementing a program called SWIFT, which would treat wastewater to drinking water standards and inject it back into the aquifer rather than dumping it into the river. The leachate, in its current condition, cannot continue to be pumped there when that program goes live.

“That’s the only unknown we’ve got hanging out there,” said Marley Woodall on Wednesday. He represents Chesapeake on the board and is its chairman.

Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts asked Wednesday when budget action should be taken regarding the leachate issue, but Finance Director Liesl DeVary said that all depends on the SWIFT program.

“We need to get confirmation from HRSD as to what changed parameters are and when we need to have them in place,” she said. “It’s primarily driven by the SWIFT program as to what additional treatment we’ll have to have in the future.”

However, Murray noted that SWIFT is only one of the concerns when it comes to improved standards in the future.

“If it’s not SWIFT, it’s other discharge criteria that are going to be put on the users in the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.