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King George County landfill may go up, not out

Trash is dumped into terraced tiers at the Atlantic Waste facility in Sussex. Using this method in King George would extend the life of the county landfill off State Route 3. / Photo by Suzanne Carr

Trash is dumped into terraced tiers at the Atlantic Waste facility in Sussex. Using this method in King George would extend the life of the county landfill off State Route 3. / Photo by Suzanne Carr

King George County officials traveled more than 100 miles south on Friday to look at one of the tallest landfills operated by Waste Management in Virginia.

Thomas Cue, district manager of the King George Landfill, rented a van and drove four members of the Board of Supervisors and several county employees to Sussex County. The group toured the Atlantic Waste Disposal facility near Waverly, about 25 miles southeast of Petersburg, and in the heart of peanut and ham country.

“The purpose of this visit is simple,” Cue said when the group gathered in the Sussex landfill’s conference room. “We’re here to see what 300 feet looks like, and this is one of the biggest [landfills] we have.”

Cue wants to expand the King George Landfill, which reached the halfway point in terms of its life expectancy in 2012. Without an expansion, it will be filled in 15 years.

Because Cue doesn’t want the landfill to get any closer to its neighbors, the only place to go is up, he said. In June, he’ll ask the Board of Supervisors to approve a vertical expansion that would make the landfill 375 feet tall, or 100 feet higher than it is now.

If the board agrees, Waste Management would apply to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality for approval.

The DEQ process takes at least two years and includes a full technical review and public-comment period, said John Dottellis, a Waste Management engineer.

The Sussex County Landfill is about 305 feet high and is in an industrial section. Its biggest neighbor is the Sussex State Prison, although there are high-priced homes between the prison and landfill, said Scott Thacker, who directs Waste Management’s landfill operations in Virginia and Maryland.

The landfill doesn’t rise out of the ground like a cone; it’s more like a wide pyramid with the top cut off, said, Jason Williams, district manager of the Sussex landfill. Roads wind along the outer wall of the landfill, which almost looks like a stadium—without the bleachers. Despite its height, it doesn’t tower above the countryside; in fact, it isn’t visible from the road.

“It is amazing that you can’t see it until you’re right here” in front of it, said Eric Gregory, King George’s county attorney.

The landfill in Sussex is much larger than the one in King George—1,300 acres compared to 612 acres. Sussex currently operates on about 409 acres, while King George uses about 300 acres.

Sussex has a lot more room to grow, and that’s why officials estimate it will be operating for another 82 years.

Both facilities take in about 4,000 tons of trash daily, and both get garbage by rail. A train from New York brings trash to Sussex while one from Annapolis, Md., carries waste to King George.

Sussex County gets $3.93 for each ton of trash brought to Atlantic Waste. King George gets $5 per ton from its landfill.

Expanding the King George landfill by 100 feet would extend the life of the facility for another 15 years, Cue said. Waste Management would pay for the expansion, which would cost about $17 million.

Trash wouldn’t be stacked straight up, but benches, similar to landscape terraces, would be arranged every 30 vertical feet, Dottellis said.

Cue presented some enhanced photos to the Board of Supervisors in June 2013 to show what a 100-foot expansion would look like. Photos were taken from State Route 3, across the road from the landfill and in various subdivisions around the facility. Only a tip of the expansion, which would have a 100-acre plateau on top, could be seen from Sealston Post Office, Cue said.

“It’s not going to change anybody’s life,” Cue said. “People who see it will still see it, and people who can’t see it still won’t see it. We’re going to be as noninvasive as possible.”

The King George expansion would be built with the same 5 percent slope as the Sussex landfill, officials said. Because of the gradual ascent, Supervisor Ruby Brabo said it didn’t “feel like you were up 300 feet high.”

Linwood Thomas, the county’s director of economic development, said he was glad King George officials saw a vertical expansion for themselves.

“I thought the tour was good,” he said. “I’m glad we did it.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425


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