Local landfill rushing to fix issues in violation of state regulations

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The operators of the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA) landfill in Suffolk are racing to fix a serious issue they discovered, then reported to state regulators.

The violation deals with the amount of excessive liquids put into the landfill, including rain that is called leachate.

Leachate is not being properly pumped out as required by state law. There should only be one foot of leachate in the bottom of the landfill, but right now, there is 23 feet, violating state regulations.

10 On Your Side rode to the top of the SPSA landfill with Executive Director Bucky Taylor, who’s feeling the heat to fix what’s wrong.

“Those fluids will seep through the landfill, and collect at the very bottom of the landfill.”

Taylor said this as trucks were dumping garbage in the landfill. That garbage includes the liquids that seep to the bottom and start to pool.

The leachate is pumped to nearby lagoons, but only 50,000 gallons a day are pumped to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD).

HRSD has set that limit because the leachate SPSA sends isn’t treated enough, and that leaves too much leachate in the landfill at levels not picked up by Taylor’s instrument equipment.

“Some of the equipment is old, no question about that,” Taylor said. “There is new equipment out on the market.”

WAVY’s Andy Fox asked why hasn’t Taylor bought and implemented that kind of equipment. He answered, “That is exactly what we’ve been looking at doing.”

Andy asked why that wasn’t being done in the past. Taylor answered, “That wasn’t the biggest issue of how much liquid was actually in the landfill.”

Taylor’s harshest critic is Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen, who calls it mismanagement or neglect.

“What happened over the last five or six years to allow this to happen should not have happened,” Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy said. “There was an issue of not having proper management that was needed.”

Correcting the problem could cost Virginia Beach millions of dollars, and other cities served by SPSA as well, but Taylor hopes that won’t be the case.

“We are hoping that most of the cost for this particular thing is absorbed in the budgets we have right now, with the funds we have right now.”

The other issue: Taylor can’t pump enough leachate out of the landfill.

“If we had the quality, we could pump more because HRSD would accept more.”

10 On Your Side pointed out that it’s his issue to make the leachate cleaner. Taylor responded, “That’s right, and that is what we are trying to do.”

SPSA is so concerned about this and is under such pressure that there will be a special meeting next Wednesday to review bids and award contracts relating to the temporary leachate pumping, hauling and discharge services. There will also be another contract to put down gravel so the bigger trucks can get back to the lagoon to physically haul the leachate off the property and take it to other disposal sites.