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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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Department of Environmental Quality
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Virginia Waste Management Board
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Solid Waste Management Regulations [9 VAC 20 ‑ 81]
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6/28/19  4:46 pm
Commenter: Artour Saakian

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

4)     Petition to add requirement of additional buffer space of 1000 feet for landfill construction over 2.0 acres adjacent to resource protection area/wetland/riparian forest, and require demonstration that there is not a practicable alternative elsewhere that is not located in an area that will threaten Resource Protection areas.

 

Justification:

Landfills create a permanent impervious surface when closed, because an impervious liner is placed on top of the waste to prevent rainwater entering and trees are actively prevented in order to prevent penetration of the liner. Upgradient impervious surfaces in watersheds are well-known to degrade water quality in the accompanying streams and rivers, especially within 500 feet of a riparian forest buffer, but impervious surfaces over 5miles upstream can negatively impact water quality (Brabec, 2002). Further, impervious surfaces make the mitigation efforts of buffer creation less effective (ibid). The siting of landfills, particularly if very large, should be discouraged or better, disallowed in sensitive watershed areas.

 

  1. Petition to add requirement to section C.

C.4 will read as follows: “No new sanitary landfill area shall be constructed in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility. This includes the following aquifer systems:

Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, Piedmont

 

Justification:

Virginia Aquifer Susceptibility study by USGS in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water established that Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont aquifer systems are 100% susceptible to contamination given a 0 to 50-year horizon (Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia). The fact that Central Virginia Seismic Zone (CVSZ) is located within Piedmont region of Virginia further raises the already high risk profile of siting landfills in this region of Virginia.

Furthermore, 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” it becomes abundantly clear that the groundwater contamination is only a matter of time.

 

Given hydrological connectivity of groundwater in the James river watershed (Piedmont region) to the James river, groundwater contamination will inevitably result in contamination spreading to the James river. James river serves as a drinking water source for millions of Virginia citizens. 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). (https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-08-12-leachate_pharm.html)

 

Again, I pose the question, if the proposed Cumberland County mega-landfill or another future landfill is permitted to be constructed within Virginia aquifer systems with 100% susceptibility to groundwater contamination, 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. The impact will be to both well water as well as public water supply systems.

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

Section D aims to protect groundwater (including by means of monitoring wells) but cannot possibly accomplish this goal in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility for the following reasons:

  • Raw leachate leakage attenuation as opposed to raw leachate leakage prevention is the best-case scenario. By EPAs own admission, “…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).
  • Raw leachate leakage is an irreversible process.
  • Raw leachate leakage in the aquifer systems with high susceptibility to contamination (especially 100% probability of contamination) will inevitably result in groundwater contamination and contamination of all surface waters hydrologically connected with contaminated groundwater including navigable waters and waters of the U.S.

On April 15, 2019 EPA issued Clean Water Act guidance on permitting requirements. It states: “Consistent with Congress’ vision for a strong federal state partnership to protect the country’s groundwater resources, the agency’s new guidance recognizes the state’s leadership role in protecting groundwater and provides certainty to states and others who implement and enforce EPA’s federal permitting programs. EPA’s Interpretative Statement will help inform federal and state regulators with future National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting and enforcement decisions.
States should continue to take an active role in regulating discharges to waters within their jurisdictions, as provided in state law and envisioned under the CWA.” (
https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-issues-guidance-clean-water-act-permitting-requirements)

 

              Based on the scientific evidence outlined above and State’s obligation to protect groundwater, the current version of the state law is inadequate for the purposes of protecting groundwater in the commonwealth of Virginia. Therefore, in order to protect interests and wellbeing of citizens of the Commonwealth and its future generations, I request the following requirement to be added to section C:

 

C.4 No new sanitary landfill area shall be constructed in the areas of high aquifer susceptibility. This includes the following aquifer systems:

Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, Piedmont.

 

 

References

Brabec, E., Schulte, S. and Richards, P. (2002). Impervious Surfaces and Water Quality: A Review of Current Literature and Its Implications for Watershed Planning. Journal of Planning Literature. Volume: 16 issue: 4, page(s): 499-514.

Mowar, O., and Liu, M. (2017). Seismic Response and Stability Analysis of Landfills. GeoEngineer.org. Full URL: https://www.geoengineer.org/education/web-class-projects/cee-549-geoenvironmental-engineering-fall-2017/assignments/seismic-response-and-stability-analysis-of-landfills. Accessed 6/21/19.

EPA Federal Register statement: Federal Register / Vol. 53, No. 168 Page 33345 -  https://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/fedreg/fr053/fr053168/fr053168.pdf

Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste: 

https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-08-12-leachate_pharm.html

 

Aquifer Susceptibility in Virginia:

https://pubs.usgs.gov/wri/wri034278/wrir03_4278.pdf