Following three years of public input, Virginia is tightening its regulations for landfills. This October, the state’s Waste Management Board voted to require greater setbacks for landfills from the surrounding community, more frequent covering of waste at active landfills, regular capacity studies, notification of excess gas emissions and additional groundwater monitoring. Kathryn Perszyk, a division director with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in a release said the changes “strengthen waste management practices to be more protective of human health and the environment, while increasing certainty for the regulated community.”

But the citizen group Virginians for Conservation and Community Rights, an organization that emerged out of local opposition to the proposed Green Ridge landfill in Cumberland County, says the regulations still fail to protect the environment and surrounding communities, particularly when it comes to groundwater contamination. Especially concerning to the group is a continued lack of protections for private wells that lie near landfills. “We are very disappointed, because it didn’t address any of the concerns that we have,” said Victoria Ronnau, executive director of the VCCR.

DEQ proposed the changes to the regulations in response to a report from former Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew Strickler that called for revisions to how the state handles landfill siting and pollution. The new regulations increase setback requirements from 200 to 500 feet between the landfill’s boundary and any residence, school, daycare center, hospital, nursing home or recreational park area. “These changes will create a larger buffer between the waste management boundary and development on properties adjacent to the landfill” and are consistent with both requests received from the public and what is found in surrounding states, a DEQ memo on the new regulations notes.

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Author: Charlie Paullin, Virginia Mercury
Image: Charlie Paullin, Virginia Mercury