King George News

Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at

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More on bad smells

Lots of times, we deal with engineer/technical types who are brilliant, no doubt, but aren’t always able to convey their vast intelligence in ways that us normal humans can comprehend.

That’s why dealing with James LaFratta is so refreshing. He works for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and is a regional air compliance engineer in Woodbridge.

When he describes the odors escaping from the King George landfill, he uses terms like “rogue” and “fugitive.” LaFratta has explained that high levels of hydrogen sulfide are what’s causing the awful smells around the landfill. The hydrogen compound was caused by waste ash that came from a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria.

The landfill stopped accepting the ash when officials realized the problem, but there’s almost 211,000 tons of it in King George—hence the regular smell of rotten eggs. And, as LaFratta explained, a little goes a long way.

“Because this gas has much higher concentration of hydrogen sulfide than normally expected, the odors are that much more noticeable—kind of like the drop of oil in water phenomenon—it doesn’t take a lot to show.”