A standing room only crowd filled the meeting room, last week, at the Smith-Wagoner Building at Chesterfield’s Government complex in opposition of a change to the Shoosmith waste facility. Of the almost 150 people from the Highlands, Arbor Landing and Woodland Pond communities, 19 spoke opposing the proposed construction of a berm while one man spoke in favor of the change.
The public meeting was required by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that oversees facilities, such as the Shoosmith Landfill, for the state. According to Fletcher Kelly, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the waste disposal operation, the requested permit would not change the footprint or the capacity of the landfill but would allow the company to remove an older section of the landfill and place it behind the berm at the facility.
“The material would be reused instead of being disposed, Kelly said.
Kelly told the group that the berm would be made up of a green mesh exterior with a vertical six-inch layer of clay behind the mesh that would be 30 to 50 feet tall. Behind the clay would be an 87 mil or about 3/8 of an inch high density polyethylene liner, which would be about 35 feet in width and hold layers of trash and a mixture of fly ash and soil.
The so called bag would extend upward as the layers were built and eventually welded closed when filling was complete.
“I am concerned with the vultures that come out of the landfill and I believe are illegal to kill,” said Sean Albert, of the Highlands neighborhood. “I want those in this group now to come out to my property and hear, see and smell what this group is doing.”
Kyle I. Winter, Regional Deputy Director for Department of Enviromental Quality (DEQ) who facilitated the meeting said, “DEQ has no stake in the county application or permit. If the county approves a permit then we would move forward,” he said. “But the county always has the first control.” Chesterfield County gave the Shoosmith Landfill the Conditional Use permit a number of years ago to proceed on the berm and other projects.
Many of the complaints to the DEQ during the meeting had to do with smell, traffic or the fly ash that is a byproduct of burning coal. According to Kelly it’s the same ash created in by coal burning furnaces and fireplaces 50 years ago, Kelly said.
“I, along with members of the Outreach Group [Shoosmith Community Outreach Group (SCOG)] have toured the facility and the concerns are understandable,” said Ray Wash, who lives in the Woodland Pond community. “I’m not proporting to be an expert on using fly ash as a component of that berm and I don’t know if anyone else here is either, but I conclude that we let Shoosmith and the DEQ determine the viability of that.”
Thomas Watson started his comments with his knowledge of the history of the landfill site. “We’re actually on the third landfill here,” he said. “The first landfill was the county landfill off of Bradley Bridge Road; the second landfill was the small part of Shoosmith. Back in about 1994, we went through a big struggle to end the landfill. Our Board of Supervisors in their great wisdom granted Shoosmith to expand the landfill into a new landfill area, and at some later date use the quarry, which would extend the operation of the landfill until about 2040.” Mr. Watson said his dates might be off, but his facts were not.
“I remember traveling with our trash to the landfill with my father. Upon getting there we unloaded and I remember the smell, but when we got back out on Route 10 we couldn’t smell it anymore,” said Van Smith. “But now after serving in Iraq and then getting my law degree, I have returned to Richmond because it was home. But now, after hearing the comments today, the lack of response by our elected officials, I’m beginning to regret that decision. Why are we even having this discussion about building a skyscraper of trash instead of an actual skyscraper? Instead of creating business we are scaring opportunity away, we are scaring people away and the result is not only the potential, but what we’re communicating to the broader metro area and state. We need to decide what Chesterfield wants to become. Do we want Chesterfield to be a Mecca for trash or a Mecca for a long term future for my [our] children.”