Leachate back under control

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

An excess of liquid in the Regional Landfill in Suffolk has been brought under control, but the Southeastern Public Service Authority continues to deal with the financial fallout.

The problem was first reported publicly in February, when a SPSA consultant with HDR, a civil engineering firm, informed the board there was far more in the landfill than allowed by state regulations.

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.


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The landfill had about 30 feet of it in two different cells when the problem was reported. The DEQ issued a notice of violation to the authority.

The authority is permitted to pump only 50,000 gallons per day of leachate directly to a wastewater treatment plant in North Suffolk. So it contracted with a company to pump and haul leachate to other treatment plants.

The company has since removed about 4.3 million gallons, Jeffrey Murray with HDR said in this Wednesday’s meeting. Pumping of the permitted 50,000 gallons per day also has continued.

The total cost of solving the leachate issue is expected to be about $5.7 million, Finance Director Liesl DeVary said during last month’s meeting. That includes a civil penalty of nearly $67,700 imposed by DEQ.

There has been no release of leachate into the environment detected, authority officials have said. The liner system apparently contained it.

The authority also has received proposals to install a system that would allow remote observation of how each pump station is performing. The system will allow observation of pump performance over time and shut pumps off automatically under alarm conditions.

Murray said the system has a minimal operational cost.

Also during the meeting, the authority’s board discussed in closed session the contract with RePower South, which has proposed to accept the authority’s trash beginning in January and turn it into energy pellets at a Chesapeake facility. The pellets would then become an alternative fuel source.

But some members of the authority’s board have become increasingly concerned about the timeline.

After the closed session, Eric Martin of Chesapeake made a motion to delay any decision on the RePower contract until a future meeting, Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts said.

William Sorrentino of Virginia Beach made a substitute motion to terminate the contract. It narrowly failed and was followed by a 13-3 vote in favor of Martin’s original motion, Roberts said.