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Bristol, Tennessee Filed A Case Over Bristol, Virginia Hazardous Landfill, Settlement Reached In Lawsuit

Bristol, Tennessee Filed A Lawsuit Against Bristol, Virginia Over Their Hazardous Landfill's Odor And Emissions. (Photo: David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier, File)

Bristol’s two municipal governments announced that a $300,000 lump-sum payment had been agreed upon as part of a settlement of the federal case Bristol, Tennessee had brought about the hazardous landfill in Bristol, Virginia.

Bristol, Virginia, over ongoing foul odors from that city’s landfill. (Photo: City of Bristol, Virginia)

Bristol, Tennesse And Bristol, Virginia To End Lawsuit By Reaching An Agreement

Bristol, Virginia will be required to give its sister city a $300,000 one-time payment if the request is granted.

If accepted by both city councils the following week, it would imply that Bristol, Virginia, has resolved the two legal claims made against it about the landfill, which has been the subject of odor and emissions concerns on both sides of town for almost two and a half years.

According to the statement, “Both Bristols are pleased to end the lawsuit by reaching an agreement to move the entire Bristol community forward and believe that this is an important step towards restoring trust and cooperation among their combined community.”

At 5 p.m. on-call meetings. The two municipal councils will separately convene on Monday to discuss a draft consent order and permanent injunction that, if accepted, would end the legal action and put an end to all claims and complaints pertaining to the management and upkeep of the dump. The facility, which ceased trash collection in September, is situated off Valley Drive in a former quarry.

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Bristol, Virginia Landfill Has Caused Health Problems In Bristol, Tennesse

The landfill, dubbed “the beast” by some in the community, frequently emits scents that smell like decaying, sour rubbish, and feces mixed with a chemical odor. In addition to the stench, others believe it has caused health problems such as headaches, nosebleeds, insomnia, and vomiting.

Federal and state officials have been involved, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality created a team of specialists to study the subject and produce a report in April 2022. The scents are generated for a variety of reasons, including a reaction occurring within the buried waste, a possible failure of the subsurface sidewall liner system, increased temperatures, and settling, according to the report.

Bristol, Virginia, officials have taken several attempts to address the problem, yet the scents persist. The cost of restoration and plant closure is currently expected to be around $60 million. Faced with a $30 million budget gap for the fiscal year 2023-24, the city council hiked the real property tax rate by 5 cents earlier this week and is considering more than doubling the monthly garbage collection price, among other moves.

Southwest Virginia legislators requested $12 million from the General Assembly for the landfill, but the money was halted when the legislature adjourned without a budget deal. On Wednesday, lawmakers returned to Richmond to consider Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s vetoes and legislative amendments, but the budget standoff continued.

The proposed settlement agreement prohibits the placement of new material in the landfill and requires the city to get state DEQ clearance to permanently close the facility after cleanup activities are completed. According to the announcement, Bristol, Virginia leaders have committed to undertake continuous air monitoring for emissions such as hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds until a polyethylene cover is placed over the dump.

Bristol, Tennessee, officials filed the complaint in May 2022, and in January, a court ordered it to mediation.

In addition, the city was served with a second lawsuit in January for its ongoing landfill issues. It was filed on behalf of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Waste Management Board, and the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

On April 4, Miyares said that an agreement in that litigation had been reached and that a consent decree had been filed in Richmond Circuit Court.

The city will be assessed a civil penalty of $377,697 under that agreement, but that amount will be deferred if the city completes the agreed-upon injunctive relief items. These efforts include the building of a sidewall odor mitigation system, changes to the landfill’s wells and pumps, the deployment of an extra waste cover, comprehensive mapping and measurement of the landfill, and the installation of a cover.

On Friday, the city posted an update on its website, stating that construction on the second phase of the sidewall odor mitigation system had resumed this week and that approximately 1,700 feet of the upper collector had been placed. Clay placement on the upper liner continues, and just one perimeter gas well for the gas well expansion design remains to be drilled. According to the update, the next stage will be to connect the new perimeter wells to the current gas extraction system.

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