CUMBERLAND – The company behind the controversial Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility being proposed in Cumberland County has announced it has altered its plans to drastically reduce the area where waste can be dumped.
Jay Smith, a spokesperson for County Waste of Virginia, which will own and operate the landfill, recently held a meeting to brief incoming Cumberland County Board of Supervisors members about the elimination of one of two fill areas from its plans.
When the landfill was approved by the current board of supervisors in June 2018, the company planned to use between 500 and 650 acres of the 1,200-acre property in two designated areas – an eastern and a western cell – to dump waste.
However, when County Waste moves forward with its Part A application with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for the project by the end of 2019, the eastern fill will be eliminated from the plans, he said. The eastern cell was the one closest to Miller Lane in Cumberland and to the Powhatan County border.
Eliminating the eastern fill area drops the project down to 240 acres that will be used to dump waste, Smith said.
“We were going to do the western fill area first and move to the eastern side so that those houses along Miller Lane weren’t going to see any development for awhile. But what this has done is allowed us to reduce our impact on the community and the environment by only doing the western fill area,” Smith said.
The shape of the western fill area has been adjusted as more engineering work was done on the property, showing that it could safely go deeper in some places to hold more trash, Smith said. The company also intends to switch from using dirt as the required daily cover to covering the waste each day with a synthetic foam that decomposes and compresses to allow more waste inside the disposal area over time.
County Waste of Virginia is still expecting an estimated 250 trash trucks a day bringing in a maximum of 3,500 to 5,000 tons from localities within a 500-mile radius, Smith said. And despite a smaller total fill area on the property, the company still anticipates the lifespan of the landfill to be 25 to 30 years.
“We were able to design a site that was still financially viable and a good business decision for us and also minimize the impact on the community, so it made sense to do that,” Smith said.
He also pointed out that the company does not anticipate the changes would impact the annual revenue coming to the Cumberland County because the host fees are based on the daily tonnage, which won’t be reduced.
Incoming Cumberland supervisor Ron Tavernier, who will represent District 2, said he and other future board members heard the presentation in an unofficial meeting on Dec. 9. He had a mixed reaction to the news.
“I am glad they are reducing it. I would like to see them eliminate it, but that is probably never going to happen. I understand the reasoning and logic that they did reduce the size,” he said. “It is nice that they have taken a lot of pressure off of the border of Powhatan and Cumberland, and the people along Miller Lane and the boarder will not be nearly as affected.”
Since the Cumberland supervisors approved the rezoning application and conditional use permit for the landfill in summer 2018, County Waste has had studies done to look at private wells, public water systems in the areas, wetlands, endangered species, and historic resources, Smith said. The results of those studies led the company to “reengineer and redesign” the project and ask for permitting of only the one area.
One of the most significant aspects of this change is “it reduces our primary impact on wetlands from 3.38 acres down to zero,” he said. He added no endangered species were found in the area.
Further studies also found 10 identified archaeological sites, one of which was a possible African-American cemetery, Smith said. With design changes, seven of the sites are not directly impacted and the company is looking at ways to mitigate the other three sites, whether that means designing around them or removing and preserving artifacts.
“There is nothing that we have found that would stop the project. We just need to mitigate the historic issues that we have identified,” he said.
Smith also addressed the recent announcement that County Waste of Virginia is being sold to Canadian company GFL Environmental Inc., the fourth largest waste management company in North America. The transaction is expected to close in January 2020.
County Waste of Virginia will be a wholly owned subsidiary of GFL but the same management team that started the Green Ridge project will continue to design, construct, and operate it if it is approved, Smith said. County Waste senior vice president Jerry Cifor is still the person in charge of the project, he added.
In addition to the changes in the landfill design to be more responsive to the community, Smith stressed the many economic benefits the project has and will bring to Cumberland County.
Some of the points he mentioned included:
* Paying $25,393 in three years worth of retroactive real estate taxes on the properties due to the rezoning of the properties.
* Giving $200,000 to the county in November 2018. The county was negotiating a settlement to end a legal agreement with Republic and the two parties were $200,000 apart. County waste provided the $200,000 to help make the deal happen.
* Spending $4,271 in January 2019 to help cover a shortfall for band uniforms for Cumberland students;
* Making a $400,000 prepayment on the host fees up front in July 2019. The money is an advance on host fees Green Ridge would owe in the future, but if the project is not approved by DEQ, the county will not have to pay those funds back, Smith said.
* Paying $100,000 to the county to help cover the costs associated with the staff time and resources that went into preparing the landfill’s rezoning application process.
“We didn’t want our application to have a negative impact on their abilities and their time, so we made that payment to them. I think this just goes to show, as Jerry has always said, County Waste of Virginia wants to be a good member of the community and looks forward to continuing being an active player in the community,” Smith said.
* The company had offered a property value protection program for eligible Cumberland residents within a certain distance of the landfill. Since it was started, 47 percent of the eligible property owners have enrolled in the program. The program is meant to protect property owners who decide to sell and make sure they get the full property value, even if County Waste has to make up the difference.
Other benefits the company has offered once the landfill is operational include: $1.3 to $2.7 million a year in host fees; $52,000 to $67,000 a year in machinery equipment and tools taxes; donating $25,000 a year for an environmental science education fund program with the schools; donating $25,000 a year for recreational programs funding for youth sports; supporting the creation of a CDL and mechanic education program potentially located in Cumberland County; $100,000 to the county each year to compensate it for a county employee landfill monitor who will work at the landfill to ensure the host agreement is being followed; free waste disposal and recycle drop-off at the landfill for Cumberland County residents, and the hiring of 30 to 35 employees, with first preference given to Cumberland residents.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.