Landfill

Having landfill large enough to bring solid waste in from other communities is unusual in Virginia, Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman said. He called Pittsylvania’s landfill, which has already been in use for 45 years, “a superinvestment.”

With a bid to import trash now on the line, one Pittsylvania County official said he could see a future where the county accepts solid waste from other localities.

“We’re taking one at a time, but we do have the capacity to take additional trash and use our landfill as a profit center for the county,” County Administrator David Smitherman said.

First, they have to win the contract now out for bid with Bedford County.

After nearly a year of efforts to make the landfill more efficient, the board of supervisors voted on June 18 to put in a bid to import Bedford County’s solid waste, since their landfill’s current life expectancy is about a year. If Pittsylvania County wins the contract, importing Bedford’s trash could cover the cost of constructing and opening the next phases of Pittsylvania’s landfill — preventing a tax increase — and provide some profit over the course of the contract.

Having landfill large enough to bring solid waste in from other communities is unusual in Virginia, Smitherman said. He called Pittsylvania’s landfill, which has already been in use for 45 years, “a superinvestment.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Davis also liked the idea of importing trash.

“If we have a better facility and we can make it pay for itself … it’s more viable for our constituents,” he said.

Last year Pittsylvania County hired engineer Butch Joyce, with Rochester, New York-based Labella Associates, to study and help improve the landfill. During the past year he has helped the landfill staff improve drainage, develop a filling sequence and learn best practices for landfill operations. Smitherman said these changes have increased the expected lifespan by 30 years.

Joyce recommended that the county take on trash from Bedford, saying that Pittsylvania County’s landfill is sizable enough for such an import.

“I would say that their life is longer than most smaller county landfills,” he said.

A conservative estimate for the lifespan of the current section of the landfill — also called a cell — being used is seven years, Joyce said in his report. But expanding into the unused cells should provide about 140 years of life at the current dumping rate of 42,000 tons of trash per year. Adding an additional 40,000 tons annually from Bedford would reduce that lifespan to about 70 years, according to Joyce’s report.

The bid was for a 10-year contract where Bedford County would be responsible for hauling the trash. If Pittsylvania County wins the contract, it would not begin taking any trash until July 1, 2020. “Our responsibility begins when they cross our scales,” Smitherman said.

To develop, construct and get state approval to create new cells — as well as close the old ones — the county will need $4.2 million during the next eight years. Over the course of the contract, if awarded, importing Bedford’s solid waste would cover those costs with an estimated $4.6 million in profit, Smitherman says. Without this contract, that cost will be passed onto the taxpayers.

“If the landfill makes money, then it’s time for the landfill to start paying the taxpayer back,” Smitherman said. He would not disclose the exact amount of the county’s bid, but county officials said while voting on the bid it would be between $25 to $35 per ton of trash.

As it currently stands, the average household in Pittsylvania County pays $120 annually to utilize the collection and landfill systems. The county has not generated any profit from the landfill, as this money just covers operational costs.

It is not yet known when Bedford County will choose from the bids it has received, though Smitherman expects to get a better idea of the decision timeline next week. The county administrator is unsure of what other localities made bids, but he knows that several private landfills did.

Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.

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Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.

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