Hazardous waste disposal questioned

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Following a fire that occurred at the Prince Edward County Landfill on July 2, The Farmville Herald contacted representatives throughout the Heart of Virginia, examining county waste services and options for hazardous waste disposal.

Wade Bartlett

Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett said the landfill cannot accept hazardous material, noting this would include asbestos and industrial chemicals.

Residential households, Bartlett said, can throw away items that companies cannot. He said it is more difficult for localities to know what individual families are throwing away.

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Bartlett said in a previous Herald report that landfill fires could be caused by a number of factors, including people disposing hot items such as charcoal packed into receptacles that could smolder, disposal of household chemicals that could potentially mix and combust when contained at the landfill site.

The landfill has random load inspections, required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ). The landfill keeps records of the random load in to show to quarterly inspector from VADEQ, Bartlett said.

Once a year, the county used to have a day where people could dispose of hazardous waste such as household chemicals, paints, without charging citizens. A company from outside the area would accept the waste items and transport them to another facility to be disposed.

Bartlett said he did not know the last time the hazardous waste disposal day was held. He said the counties previously had companies Veolia to recycle fluorescent bulbs and what are called Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) disposal and AERC to recycle electronics.

Bartlett said currently, the landfill recycles vehicle batteries and used oil to area auto parts stores. Discarded paint cans are popped open and left until the paint dries, and are then disposed with other items in the landfill.

Bartlett said CFLs and other flourescent lightbulbs are recycled through a program the landfill has with Hampden-Sydney College (HS-C). Once Bartlett said they collect enough bulbs, they will transport them to HS-C, where the lightbulbs are discarded through a specialized, enclosed machine that breaks up the lightbulbs without releasing mercury vapor inside them. Bartlett said the county pays the college to recycle the lightbulbs.

“It saves the taxpayers’ money on both of those,” Bartlett said about the batteries and CFLs.

He said he is unsure of when the county would have a future hazardous waste disposal event similar to what had taken place in the past, but said it would be considered if the demand is great enough. He said those sort of events take a lot of manpower from county departments to organize.

The Town of Farmville held similar hazardous waste disposal events. Town Manager Gerald Spates said the event was annual, but did not know the last year it was held and said a future event has not been determined.

“What we do is we get a company to come in, and it handles the hazardous waste,” Spates said. “It’s pretty expensive, but we’ve done it every couple of years, and we’ll probably do it here very shortly.” Spates said he has not received many request from residents about a hazardous waste drop-off-site.

Ray York, director of environmental management in Amelia County, said the Maplewood landfill, owned by Waste Management, accepts asbestos as a hazardous waste and accepts asbestos from people outside Amelia County.

“It is one of the few landfills that do accept asbestos,” York said. “It is listed as a hazardous waste.”

York said customers would need to follow specific guidelines in order for the landfill to collect the material, which is then transported to be treated at another facility.

“It has to be brought in very specifically, in a safe manner, bagged up, and the contractors that are bringing the material in have to make arrangements beforehand, and the folks at the working face (a term for an area of the landfill) actually get a latitude, longitude of where it’s actually placed and they place it very specifically and very carefully,”

York said asbestos are classified as being friable or non-friable. Friable material being material that can become airborne, release asbestos through the air and pose respiratory hazards. He said friable material would need to be wet down and put into bags to avoid spreading the hazard. Non-friable material are typically found in material such as building siding and roof shingles. 

York said Amelia County residents can dispose of household wastes or chemical items, which is collected by the county.

“Once we get enough of it on site, then Waste Management will pick up the charge to have it disposed of properly,” York said. The household hazardous waste program is solely available for Amelia County residents.

Buckingham Solid Waste Supervisor Lyn Hill said the county encourages people with items considered hazardous waste to transport them to WEL Inc., an environmental service company based in Concord that treats hazardous waste material and spills.

Hill said there are certain types of paints that the county’s waste system accepts. These include latex-based paints, and some dried paints that have been hardened on a surface.

Cumberland County encourages recycling of materials such as metal, plastic and paper. Items that its convenience centers do not accept include automotive or other lead acid batteries (may be recycled at retailers that sell automotive batteries), pesticides or other farm chemicals, explosives or ammunition, oxygen, propane tanks or other pressurized tanks, used oil (may be recycled at retailers that sell motor oil), oil based paint, gasoline and thinners, and hot ashes or cinders.

The recently-approved Green Ridge landfill, located at the Cumberland, Powhatan County border off Route 60, is set to have a recycling option within the facility, and cited it is set to not accept hazardous waste items including radioactive waste or low-level radioactive waste, sludge, or any recycled or processed construction and demolition debris that does not recycle out sheetrock, according to a draft of its host agreement between the county and landfill.


A fire July 2 at the Prince Edward County landfill raised alarm about the condition of the landfill, and the potential for groundwater contamination if the cell where the fire took place was damaged. Bartlett described the layout of the landfill cell, and said groundwater would not have been affected by the incident.

The top layer of material in the landfill cell, underneath waste, is a geotextile filter, 85 mil thick. Bartlett described the texture of the filter similar to felt. A mil is a measurement where 1 mil is equivalent to 1/1,000 of an inch. The filter was the only part of the landfill cell that sustained damage in the landfill fire, Bartlett said. He said they were able to replace the filter.

The next layer is 18 inches of a leachate drainage layer, made up of 18 inches of rock. Leachate passes through the layer, leachate being a term for water or sludge that might accumulate.

Below the drainage layer is a cushion geotextile, a felt-esque 110-mil material which took the place of sand that had originally been in the cell.

“The whole purpose of that to do is to protect the next layer,” Bartlett said, which is a 60 mil High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) liner. The cushion geotextile above the liner protects it from being punctured by the rocks. The liner is waterproof.

Below the HDPE liner is a synthetic clay liner, held in place by top and bottom membranes. The clay liner is 300 mil thick. Bartlett said the specific clay used is a specialized type that expands when it gets wet, and plugs in holes that could potentially develop in the HDPE liner.

At the bottom of the graphic, below the clay liner is a foot, or 12 inches of compacted subgrade, which Bartlett described as densely-packed earth that makes water difficult to pass.

“The rock is just the drainage area. It kind of acts as a filter also, to help filter out contaminants, but between the rock and that cushion is a series of pipes. Those pipes are the leachate collection system. It runs into the pipes, and then it is collected into what we call our leachate pond, which is then treated at the sewer plant, and released after treatment.” Bartlett said.

Addressing concerns that the damaged liner would result in groundwater contamination with leachate escaping from the cell, Bartlett said that did not occur following the July 2 incident.

“The landfill was not damaged significantly, and definitely not enough to pose a risk to the contamination of the groundwater,” Bartlett said.