To our readers – below is a letter to the editor in which the ESI Government Relations Executive protests the content of my prior letter. So I will offer my rebuttal to Mr. Mehan.
As a preface, this fight over the expansion of the Lorton Landfill is a struggle between competing narratives. Is this first and foremost Green Energy Park proposal that will provide a net environmental benefit to our community and the world? Or is it an attempt to lock Fairfax County into an old way of handling construction debris and making it possible to undercut the CDD recycling industry that is growing rapidly across the country as markets for recycled wood, paper, cardboard, metals, concrete, asphalt, aggregates and the like are developed.
As a community opponent, we are in the difficult position of dealing with a PR campaign made up of sound bites and catchphrases, all designed to make a landfill appealing. To rebut each sound bite requires two or more paragraphs, and it is a tremendous challenge for an army of citizen volunteers. I have included my comments in red below, and a link to the Fairfax times for the original publication is at the end of this paper.
Thank you for reading this.
1) Fairfax Times, Separating fact, fiction at Lorton Landfill, Conrad Mehan, May 07, 2014
Since EnviroSolutions Inc. (ESI)) submitted an application to extend the life of its construction debris landfill and install a state-of-the-art Green Energy Park, local developer Bill Lynch has conjured story upon story to oppose this transformational opportunity for Fairfax County. The community deserves better than stories substituting for facts when engaging in public dialogue.
Initially, Mr. Lynch’s story was that ESI broke a promise to convert the landfill to a park. The fact is the Park Authority reversed its commitment to take ownership of the land after closure thus preventing the proposed park from happening. I do believe that the County Attorney has a different view of this matter. In 2009, ESI and the County signed an agreement which would allow for public uses on the property under ESI’s continued ownership, but ESI is claiming that the insurance policy they require is not available in the market. However, we note here that the owners of the now closed Hilltop Landfill in Franconia/Alexandria area are able to find insurance that allows them to open their closed landfill for public recreation. In my opinion, this is a flimsy straw dog justification for expanding their landfill.
The next story was that construction debris landfills are not needed “because 100 percent of construction debris can be recycled”, citing a recycling facility he uses which allegedly recycles 100 percent of the debris he takes there. Actually, my last three buildings constructed and 100% of our Tenant Improvement projects for several years used a certified green recycling company in Manassas as the sole provider of CDD waste handling services. At the very end of this article, you can see the results of the recycling efficiency audit of Broad Run Recycling by the Recycling Certification Institute. They are certified at 96% recycling efficiency. The fact is this recycling facility sends a majority of its material to landfills and an incinerator – hardly recycling. I don’t believe that these “facts” are correct. First of all, the residue left over after all recoverable materials are picked out by a mechanized conveyor system is sent to the Covanta Waste-to-Energy (co-generation) plant in Lorton where it is burned to create steam and generate electricity and not buried to create methane. Covanta likes this residual material because they charge to accept it and they save on natural gas expenses because it has a high BTU content. Furthermore, USGBC/LEED recognizes this residual material as a “wood derived fuel” which is a recognized component of their recycling point system.
Today the story is that 85 percent of construction debris can be recycled. I actually backed off of the 100% figure because ESI protested so loudly. I was wrong. It should be 96%. As you will see below, ESI has an unusual way to account for their recycling reports. The fact is that last year 24 percent of the volume accepted at ESI’s landfill came from other recycling facilities in the region which could not recycle this material. The reason that these “other recycling facilities” could not recycle is that they are what the industry calls “kick-sort” operations in which a load is dumped on the floor and men kick through the trash and pull out the larger metals and perhaps some cardboard. Then they reload it into a transfer truck and send it to ESI to be buried. To draw an analogy, this is like a dairy just skimming off the cream and then pouring the rest of the milk on the ground because it was just too much trouble to pasteurize. These other facilities are not Certified Recyclers like Broad Run Recycling in Manassas. Another 42 percent of the volume arriving at the landfill was dirt which could not be handled by the type of recycling operations that Mr. Lynch cites. Hauling dirt to a landfill for Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) is a lazy developer’s way of handling soils that are quite reusable on other construction sites. Usually, you have to pay to dump dirt. My company works very hard to find other construction sites nearby that need fill dirt material or top soil for landscaping areas and berms. ESI actually needs the dirt because they have to cover up all the freshly dumped trash at least once a week. He fails to note the ESI landfill recycled more material than any of the recycling facilities in the area. I have been present at several meetings where ESI has said they “recycle” broken concrete on site by building roads so more trucks can dump debris. It all gets buried in the ground at the end. Neither USGBC nor the Recycling Certification Institute would recognize such a practice as recycling to qualify in their certifications.
A new story is that ESI’s proposal is not “green energy” because of methane. Here are the facts the storyteller omits. (I personally object to the pejorative, “storyteller”. We have tried very hard not to make this a personal fight. It’s about the policy.) The Sierra Club came out in favor of ESI’s Green Energy Park. Here, he refers to the local chapters of the Sierra Club. The author of an article in which the Sierra Club seemingly endorsed the Green Energy Park testified at the planning commission the she felt somewhat misled by ESI. She did stop short of an official retraction of her article. The Sierra Club does not oppose the capture and use of methane for the production of electricity, as this prevents release of this greenhouse producing gas and recycles it into energy. To be completely accurate, in this case, the National Sierra Club would heartily endorse capturing methane from an existing landfill and using it to create electricity. So would I. What the National Sierra Club does object to is using methane collection as a justification for expanding a landfill or continuing landfill operations beyond a programmed closure because in reality, even the most efficient methane collection systems are able to recover only about 30-40% of all the methane created as the organics in the ground decompose. The storyteller (There’s that pejorative again.), also omits the fact that ESI Green Energy Park will feature a methane capture system enabling this gas to produce electricity. Most informed regulators and industry participants with whom I have discussed the ESI methane-to-energy proposal are skeptical that there is enough concentration of buried organics in the ground for this to work. I think one telling bit of information is that ESI has received two violations by Virginia DEQ for failing to keep their current methane flares properly lit and functioning. Along with the wind turbines, solar farm and geothermal energy the ESI proposal tangibly demonstrates the role of renewable energy in Fairfax County’s future and the County’s commitment to sustainability. The only solid commitment to provide Green Energy is for ESI to build out three acres of solar panels in the early stages of their expansion. They can elect to make payments-in-lieu to the County totaling $10,000,000 and not build the wind turbines, the methane collection system, and the geothermal recovery project. Then, after the post closure period in 2044, they will make the property available to others to do a larger solar farm and up to 12 wind turbines. This is why the Sierra Club testified in support of the ESI Green Energy Park. We have asked the local Sierra Club to reconsider their position. Time will tell.
Providing a local depository for construction debris though 2034 not only meets the county’s stated need for supporting redevelopment and revitalization but it avoids having to truck construction debris long-distances, creating more diesel emissions and adding to our congestion problem. First of all, ESI neglects the fact that in 2012, 55% of the waste stream came from Maryland and D.C. In 2011, it was 45% from out of state and in 2010, it was 62%. ESI and Maryland need this expansion more than Fairfax County. Furthermore, there are seven facilities in northern Virginia that accept CDD waste and all are operating below capacity. When this landfill closes, these facilities and newer ones to come like the Broad Run Recycling in Manassas will be able to take up the slack quite handily. Finally, ESI conveniently ignores that there is a landfill in Prince George’s County that is about a mile off the Beltway that can take any materials that absolutely positively have to have a landfill. It is called the Ritchie Rubble Landfill on exit 13 of the Beltway and ESI trucks hauling trash from Baltimore drive past it every day to deliver their CDD waste to Lorton.
The combination of producing electricity from renewable sources, preventing methane release into the atmosphere and avoiding the diesel emissions from trucking debris long distances means the ESI Green Energy Park will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.6 million tons over the life of the project. ESI has been asked repeatedly to back up their emissions claims with facts, calculations and real numbers. They have yet to do so. They also have refused to disclose how many tons of capacity will be added to the landfill if this permit is issued, even though the day they walk into the DEQ they will tell Virginia exactly what their projected capacity will be, and it will be public record. And that’s no story!
Conrad Mehan, Director of Community Relations
To view the Letters to the Editor go here.
We Need to Voice Our Outrage to the Board of Supervisors
A Divided Planning Commission Votes to Approve Landfill Application
We would like to thank the community for all your efforts contacting members of the Fairfax County Planning Commission. While the Planning Commission approved the application in a tight, split-decision, your voice made a difference! While this is disappointing, this is not the end. The Planning Commission stated they were unhappy with the application and requested the Board of Supervisors consider these topics as they consider the application.
- Deletion of the requirement (Development Condition 46 and elsewhere) that the applicant install wind turbines at this location;
- Consider whether the applicant’s annual contributions of $500,000 between 2019 and 2038 should be indexed to inflation or subject to cost of living increases;
- Consider a requirement that the applicant is required to designate a community liaison;
- Consider additional clarification of the applicants long term responsibility for the structural integrity and stability of the solar panels;
- Consider additional limitations on the removal of vegetation or supplemental vegetation;
- Consider whether the closure date could be sooner than 2034 or the height of the final debris elevation be further reduced below 395 feet or the height of the 70 foot berm be reduced if determined to be structurally sound by all appropriate reviewing agencies.
We need to turn up our volume of support as the Board of Supervisors public hearing date may be scheduled for May 13. As soon as a date has been scheduled, we will let you know.
For further information, please continue to check for updates here and write your local supervisor and Chairman Bulova. You can find their contact information here.
Commission Hart Motion to Approve (April 3, 2014)
I move that the Planning Commission find that the solar electrical generating facility proposed under 2232-V13-17 satisfies the criteria of location, character, and extent as specified in Section 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia, as amended, and is substantially in accord with the provisions of the adopted Comprehensive Plan.
I move that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of Proffered Condition Amendment PCA 2000-MV-034, subject to the execution of proffers consistent with those dated February 10, 2014, and contained in Appendix 1 of the staff report.
I move that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of a modification of Par. 11 of Sect. 11-102 of the Zoning Ordinance for a dustless surface to that shown on the Generalized Development Plan.
I move that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval to permit off-site vehicular parking for the Observation Point for Special Exception Amendment SEA 80-L/V-061-02, pursuant to Sect. 11-102 of the Zoning Ordinance.
Commissioner Hart Motion to Approve (April 3, 2014)
I move that the Planning Commission find the solar and wind electrical generating facilities proposed under 2232-V13-18 satisfy the criteria of location, character, and extent as specified in Section 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia, as amended, and are substantially in accord with the provisions of the adopted Comprehensive Plan.
I further move that the Planning Commission find that SEA 80-L/V-061-02 meets the applicable legal criteria, subject to staff’s proposed development conditions with the deletion of Development Condition 60, for the reasons articulated in the staff reports and subsequent memoranda, and therefore recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of Special Exception Amendment SEA 80-L/V-061-02, subject to staff’s proposed development conditions dated March 28, 2014, with the following modification: delete Development Condition 60 in its entirety;
Commissioner Hart Follow On Motion (April 3, 2014)
I move that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors that it direct Department of Planning and Zoning staff, in consultation with the Planning Commission, Park Authority and Office of the County Attorney, as appropriate, to evaluate and report back to the Board, with appropriate recommendations on the following topics, within 18 months:
A) In land use applications involving the creation of a public park, including innovative or unconventional locations for park and recreation facilities, should additional procedures or protocols be implemented, so as to better integrate, into the County’s land use decision making process, the Park Authority’s decisions on acceptance of dedication, or responsibility for maintenance or liability, prior to action by the Planning Commission and/or Board of Supervisors?
B) In land use applications involving the creation of a public park, including innovative or unconventional locations for park and recreation facilities, should additional procedures or protocols be implemented, so as to ensure the Office of the County Attorney has an appropriate opportunity to review proposed language of any development conditions or proffers, specifically including provisions for conveyance, acceptance, or dedication of land, or associated responsibility for maintenance or liability, and any conditions precedent, prior to action by the Planning Commission and/or Board of Supervisors?
Letter from Janet Cole to the Board of Supervisors – published with permission
Dear Sir and Madam:
I am a 50 year resident of Mason Neck, and I wish to state my strong opposition to the subject applications for the extension and expansion of the existing Furnace Road Landfill.
Dear Chairman Bulova,
I am writing on behalf of the Barrington neighborhood, a community of 476 single-family homes located off Silverbrook Road in Fairfax Station. As residents of the South County/Lorton area, we are opposed to the latest ESI proposal to greatly expand and extend operations of the Lorton landfill.
Dear Board of Supervisors
The Occoquan Overlook Community Association requests that you oppose SEA-2, ESI’s request to establish a Green Energy Park and extend operations until December 31, 2040. Occoquan Overlook currently has 80 luxury homes and is located west of Route 123 between Lorton Road and Hooes Road. Our community was established in 2006 and its development is continuing. Additional residential development is planned to abut
Occoquan Overlook. The community is in the Mt. Vernon District.
Dear Madam Chairman,
It is with great concern that the Shirley Acres Civic Association (SACA) writes you to ask for your support to oppose the SEA-2 submitted by ESI dated October 7th, 2013 requesting an extension for operations on
the landfill in Lorton to a closure date of December 31st, 2040. We also ask for your support to enforce the SEA-1 submitted by ESI and passed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (FFX.CO.BOS) in January
2007, requiring that the Furnace Associates/ESI landfill cease operations December 31st, 2018 as promised to the surrounding communities
Dear Madam Chairman,
We are writing to express our opposition of SEA-2, submitted by ESI (d/b/a Furnace Associates) and
dated December 10th, 2013. This SEA requests a drastic area expansion and operation extension of ESI
landfill operations in Lorton, VA, and we request that the Board of Supervisors votes in opposition.
Dear Supervisor Hyland:
As you know, ESI is seeking to extend their operations beyond the scheduled 2018 termination date, and, as a result, increase the size and visibility of their site. The Mason Neck Citizens Association has previously gone on record in opposition to this proposal and in support of the South County Federation’s position. MNCA’s concerns are the lack of landscaping in the park.
I would like to register our organization’s opposition to the Special Exception application pending before the Planning Commission for expansion and extension of deadline for the “ESI Landfill” and notify you of our support of the position of the South County Federation (who also oppose the referenced application).
The Spring Hill Community Association Board of Directors opposes the Special Exception Amendment – 2 submitted by Enviro Solution, Inc. (ESI) and proposes that the provisions of SEA
80-L/V-061 remain in effect.
Dear Chairman Bulova,
On behalf of Crosspointe Swim and Racquet, Inc. (Crosspointe), I am writing to express our opposition to the proposal by Furnace Associates, Inc./ESI (ESI) for approval of Special Exception Amendment (SEA) 80-L/V-061-2, an extension of operations at their landfill until December 31, 2040.
Dear Supervisor Hyland,
The Springfield Oaks Homeowners Association requests that the Board of Supervisors oppose SEA-2, ESI’s request to establish a Green Energy Park and extend operations until December 31, 2040.
Additionally, Terra Grande desires the BOS to hold ESI to the promise made by ESI’s attorney in 2006. That promise was to close the landfill in 2019. Furthermore, ESI is non-compliant with several significant provisions of SEA-1: creation of trails and a public park, extensive landscaping on the landfill hillside, and a date-certain closure of December 31, 2018. These promises have not been fulfilled. ESI now says they will not build the public park and propose to extend the established closure date. This brings doubt as to ESI’s credibility to fulfill commitments as outlined in SEA-2.
Newberry Station HOA Opposition Letter
Resolved, that the Board of Directors, Newberry Station Homeowners Association, Inc., fully supports the South County Federation in its opposition to extending the life of the Envirosolutions landfill beyond 2019.