- In a rare escalation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has revoked a landfill operating permit held by Meridian Waste subsidiary CFS Group Disposal & Recycling Services. The company is now barred from accepting solid waste at the Tri-City Regional Disposal and Recycling site in Petersburg. The Progress Index reported that a limited permit has been reissued for closure and post-closure maintenance.
- In response to a request for comment, DEQ directed Waste Dive to a press release. According to the agency, CFS "exceeded the permitted waste pile height, failed to adequately cover exposed waste, failed to maintain the required amount of extra waste cover, and failed to correct the violations in a timely manner even after being repeatedly notified."
- Meridian Waste Chief Marketing Officer Mary O'Brien shared with Waste Dive that CFS plans to appeal the decision and the company "will continue to provide environmental services to its customers."
According to DEQ officials, the situation is a rarity — the department has not revoked a license in around 20 years. But the Tri-City landfill operators have repeatedly clashed with regulators and the government said it gave the company multiple chances to fix problems before taking action. DEQ initially brought charges against CFS last November over numerous violations, including allowing coal ash to escape from a liner, not maintaining adequate cover and permitting stormwater systems to clog, among other issues.
At the time, O'Brien said CFS was working on operational improvements and seeking to reduce waste disposal at the location.
Revoking the company's permit marks another stage in the heated back-and-forth. In a statement, DEQ Director David Paylor referenced "a pattern of serious and repeated abuse" by CFS, adding that the "Commonwealth of Virginia has made it clear that non-compliance like this will not stand."
DEQ officials said residents complained repeatedly about foul smells, prompting an investigation. They found numerous safety violations, and notified CFS of those problems in July 2017, July 2018 and August 2018. One major concern at the landfill has been methane violations, with landfill gas rising to dangerous levels that could potentially spark explosions in the area. The persistence of such issues led to DEQ's recent decision.
Meridian, which acquired CFS in early 2017, refuted the government's accusations and said CFS has been in compliance with regulations. The company envisions "a long legal process" ahead and said it is "committed to winning" despite pushback from the state.
"The landfill is a vital infrastructure asset that benefits the greater community," the company asserted.
According to DEQ, the landfill had an estimated 500,000 tons of capacity and five years of remaining permitted life at the end of 2018. DEQ acknowledged that jobs will be impacted by the decision, but argued safety outweighs other concerns.
Officials in Petersburg and other municipalities, which contract with CFS for collection through the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority, are less convinced. The city receives an estimated $230,000 in annual host fees and will see that amount decline as long as the Tri-City site remains closed. Free drop-off for bulk items has also been suspended since the landfill closed. In the meantime, areas are shipping all waste to another CFS landfill in Lunenburg County that has ample remaining capacity.