LETTER — We must get serious about garbage disposal laws

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 19, 2021

To the Editor:

When did Virginia become the second largest dumping ground in America?

Industrial facilities dumped 11,821,961 lbs. of toxic chemicals into Virginia’s waterways in 2012 making Virginia’s waterways the fifth worst in the nation, according to a new report by the Environment Virginia Research and Policy Center.

Email newsletter signup

Almost 7.3 million tons came to the commonwealth in 2006, with most of it from Maryland, New York and Washington, D.C. Virginia remains the second biggest trash importing state in the nation, behind only Pennsylvania. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality’s solid waste report for 2018 shows the total amount of solid waste received increased from 2017 by more than 214,000 tons, which is almost 1 percent.

Virginia’s willingness to be a major dumping ground has been going on for many years, and it’s growing, but our rules and regulations are not.

• Virginia’s code for trash handling hasn’t changed in 30 years. While other states have updated their codes, Virginia has not. Landfill specifications like double liners (traps liquid from penetrating sub-soil), locating landfills far away from private water wells and away from major waterways are just a few commonsense regulations Virginia has not adopted.

• Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has never declined to issue a landfill permit.

• The current legislative session has declined to implement a few simple changes to Virginia’s code to get agreement from neighboring counties when a landfill will impact that county’s environment, traffic, health and safety, protect historic sites from the encroachment of a landfill or allows new “fuel from waste” processing without an environmental impact review.

It makes one wonder, if politicians claim to be interested in preserving our health, welfare and environment then why aren’t they willing to step up and make meaningful changes? Money and influence I suppose.

Besides the above issues, we live in a changing world. New chemicals are introduced that continue to challenge our ability to cope with their impacts, and for which we have no answers.

As an example, the CDC reports PFAS (polyfluorinated substances) are a group of chemicals used to make coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. They do not break down in the environment, can move through soils and contaminate drinking water sources, and they build up (bioaccumulate) in fish and wildlife. PFAS have been found in rivers and lakes and in many types of animals on land and in the water. The long term health effects are yet to be determined. 

In summary, unless we as a nation get serious and involved in implementing updated laws governing waste disposal we can kiss our environment and our health goodbye.

Tim Kennell