Virginia AG sues Meridian subsidiary over multiple landfill violations
- The Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Waste Management Board brought charges against CFS Group Disposal & Recycling Services, LLC, a subsidiary of Meridian Waste, on Nov. 1. The suit was filed after the DEQ said it gave the company multiple warnings and violation notices.
- The suit alleges multiple violations at the company's Tri City Landfill in Petersburg, Virginia. This includes filling the site beyond permitted slope and height limits, not maintaining an adequate daily cover, letting stormwater systems become clogged, allowing coal ash to escape a lined area and maintaining a waste pile larger than permitted, among other charges.
- In a statement provided to CBS 6, Meridian Waste's Chief Marketing Officer Mary O’Brien said the company could not comment on pending litigation, but had "amended operations to greatly reduce waste disposal at the Tri City Landfill" while making operational improvements.
Meridian acquired CFS Disposal & Recycling in 2017, its first entry into the Virginia market, and this was one of two MSW landfills that came with the deal. In its response to CBS 6, Meridian said some of the violations dated back to before its ownership. Though it should be noted that the attorney general's office says the DEQ has contacted the company at least three times since that deal was finalized, the most recent being in August of this year, and the suit was only brought after repeated warning.
“CFS repeatedly received warnings that it was in violation of the law but it continued to ignore its responsibility to protect the land, air and water around the Tri City Landfill and failed to comply with waste management permits and regulations,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement. Herring said his office is seeking reparations for the state from CFS for "its role in damaging the environment around its Petersburg facility."
Landfill regulations continue to evolve and shift — particularly at the federal level, where the EPA is currently trying to stall a lawsuit over enforcing methane emissions rules — and violating them can be costly. While some amount of transition time can be expected when companies take ownership over a new site, precedent elsewhere has shown that usually has little bearing on absolving them of responsibility for conditions that may have developed beforehand.
Aside from affecting the bottom line (as fines for violations can rack up), operational issues at landfill can cause local public relations problems, harm the environment and put workers at risk. According to the latest annual report from Virginia DEQ (released in August, with 2017 data), the Tri City landfill has an estimated 3.5 years or less of permitted capacity left. Permit renewal can be a lengthy process and it will likely be in Meridian's best interest to get this resolved before that begins if they plan to extend the site's lifespan.