Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Virginia Waste Management Board
Solid Waste Management Regulations [9 VAC 20 ‑ 81]
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6/28/19  4:45 pm
Commenter: Artour Saakian

Request for Amendments to 9VAC20-81-120, Siting Requirements for Landfills - Part I

To whom it may concern:

 Herein I submit a petition to make five changes to the siting requirements for landfills in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the Code of Virginia § 2.2-4007. Petitions for new or amended regulations; opportunity for public comment.

A.     Any person may petition an agency to request the agency to develop a new regulation or amend an existing regulation. The petition shall state (i) the substance and purpose of the rulemaking that is requested, including reference to any applicable Virginia Administrative Code sections, and (ii) reference to the legal authority of the agency to take the action requested.


Statutory authority of the agency to make the requested change: 9VAC 20; § 10.1-1402 Code of Virginia; 42 USC § 6941 et seq.; 40 CFR Part 258

 All petitions pertain to 9VAC20-81-120. Siting Requirements for landfills


1)     Petition to amend Siting requirement section C. 3. b. (2).

To read “within seismic impact zones.” No exceptions should be made.


The current requirements do not account for local geology. The intention of the regulation C.3.a. (5) (no siting on a fault) is to prevent construction of landfills in areas likely to experience significant ground forces. However, in Virginia, earthquakes do not typically occur on mapped surface fault lines referred to in the regulations. Therefore, the more appropriate standard among currently defined geologic boundaries is the seismic impact zone itself. One of the key findings from the Virginia Department of Minerals, Mines, and Energy 2017 report to FEMA of the state of knowledge of Virginia earthquakes (

“Mapped fault locations at the surface of the Earth do not correlate well with historic

epicenter locations in Virginia.   Within the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone (ETSZ) and Giles County Seismic Zone (GCSZ), most earthquakes appear to

be related to movement along faults within basement rocks beneath a major discontinuity several kilometers within the earth’s crust. Within the Central Virginia Seismic Zone (CVSZ), some earthquakes do appear to be related to faults that extend, or may extend, to the earth’s surface.  In many other cases, earthquake epicenters in the CVSZ do not align with mapped faults. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy, Division of Geology and Mineral Resources states: “Most earthquakes in Virginia are not associated with a known fault, but occur within three distinct seismic zones: ETSZ, GCSZ, and CVSZ. (

In light of this information, it is not appropriate to use the locations of mapped faults to assign seismic hazard or risk. “


In addition to the above, while at best, the probability of earthquake events in Virginia Seismic Zones remains constant for the foreseeable future, landfill construction materials naturally deteriorate over time. Therefore, demonstrating that all containment structures, including liners, leachate collection systems, and surface water control systems, are designed to resist the maximum horizontal acceleration in lithified earth material for the site at the time of landfill construction is irrelevant as it does not ensure adequate groundwater protection over a period of time during which groundwater contamination starts and continues to occur.


Furthermore, as per Virginia Aquifer Susceptibility study by USGS in conjunction with Virginia Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water, aquifer in the Piedmont region of Virginia is 100% susceptible to contamination given a 0 to 50-year horizon (Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia).  CVSZ is located within Piedmont region of Virginia. When this scientific finding is combined with EPA statement that “…even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration” (EPA statement: Federal Register / Vol. 53, No. 168 Page 33345) it becomes abundantly clear that the groundwater contamination is only a matter of time.


Finally, given hydrological connectivity of groundwater in the James river watershed to the James river, groundwater contamination will inevitably result in contamination spreading to the James river. James river serves as a source of drinking water for millions of Virginia citizens (including Henrico county and the city of Richmond).


2014 USGS study of leachate contents established based on the study of 19 landfills across the United States found 129 of 202 pharmaceutical (prescription and nonprescription), household, and industrial chemicals in untreated leachate samples. The number of chemicals measured in the leachate samples ranged from 6 to 82 (with a median of 31). (


If the proposed Cumberland County mega-landfill or another future landfill is permitted to be constructed within one of Virginia’s Seismic Zones, especially CVSZ, what will it cost Virginia taxpayers to treat water for all the additional contaminants found in landfill leachate including VOCs, heavy metals, PFAs a.k.a. “forever chemicals”, dioxins including PCBs etc. etc.

What is the plan to deal with practicably untreatable contaminants including pharmaceuticals? What will be the cost of litigation resulting from drinking water contamination?


Given all of the above, I propose to have the Siting requirement section C. 3. b. (2) read as follows:


C. Restrictions              

3. Sanitary landfills.

b. No new sanitary landfill or expansion of an existing sanitary landfill shall be constructed:

              (2) Within seismic impact zones.


2)     Petition to add requirement to section C.3.a. (6) In any area vulnerable to liquefiable soil.



The presence of soil liquefaction, as was observed after the Mineral 2011 earthquake, is problematic for landfill siting for two reasons. One, it can lead to major structural failures under seismic loading and two, it makes prediction, tracking, and mitigation of any leaks difficult (Mowar and Liu, 2017).


3)     Petition to amend requirement E. Wetlands

to read “E. Resource Protection Areas

1.     Sanitary Landfills.

a.     New sanitary landfills and expansions of existing landfills, other than those impacting less than 2.0 acres of nontidal wetlands, shall not be constructed in any Resource Protection Areas as defined in  9VAC25-830-80. Resource Protection Areas.”



The Code of Virginia establishes elsewhere (9VA25-830; Bay Management Regulations) the regulation for protection of lands in addition to wetlands (e.g. riparian forest buffers) in order to protect the Bay and water quality. The requested change is needed to align the regulations guiding the siting of landfills with this requirement to appropriately manage the lands of the Bay watershed.

CommentID: 72775