Committee bids more testing on dirt

County landfill committee members are pushing for more testing of contaminated dirt the county plans to accept from an industrial site in Alexandria.

While the dirt is within state Department of Environmental Quality standards, committee chairperson Joan Moon said she wants one in 10 truckloads tested for toxins such as arsenic and lead.

The dirt is coming from the Carlysle site in Alexandria, a former industrial site known to be contaminated with diesel fuel.

The Anderson Company of Alexandria has agreed to haul the contaminated dirt to Prince William County’s landfill and give it to the county free of charge — if the county will accept the contaminants. The dirt would be used to cover the landfill, which is to be turned over to the department of parks and recreation.

But Moon is not satisfied with the testing that has gone on in Alexandria and wants the dirt to be tested when it arrives in Prince William as well.

“We don’t want the county to be known as a place where people say ‘Prince William takes that stuff; let’s give it to them,'” Moon said.

Moon, who lives near the landfill off Va. 234 near Independent Hill, leads a committee charged with monitoring and improving the landfill’s effectiveness.

She said the committee is concerned because ultimately the landfill will be used for public recreation. In the meantime, the trucks transporting the dirt will be traveling through residential neighborhoods.

County Solid Waste Division Chief Tom Smith said he knew about the contaminants before he entered into talks with Anderson but is not concerned.

“It’s passed all the tests. We’re on a landfill now with 3.5 million tons of garbage, which potentially has a lot more contamination than this dirt. We think the risks are low, and it’s a good thing to do.”

County officials are now grappling with whether to save $1.5 million by accepting the free dirt, or pay more for dirt that is contaminant-free.

“We want to make sure we feel comfortable the material doesn’t end up turning our landfill into a liability,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton, R- at large.

Moon said she first became aware the county was accepting contaminated dirt from the Alexandria site at a Dec. 20 meeting of the landfill oversight committee.

Committee members were told their meeting with Smith was to set up a plan for capping the landfill.

But it was already too late. At the meeting, committee members learned 230 loads of dirt from Alexandria had already arrived at the landfill. The meeting was on Thursday and the hauling began on Monday, Moon said.

“We said ‘Stop the haul until we come up with a plan,’ ” Moon said. The county couldn’t do that but did agree to stockpile the dirt until the issue is resolved.

Committee members began calling supervisors and also aired their concerns at the Jan. 6 board meeting.

Moon felt so strongly about the situation that she said she hired a consultant — paying $1,000 herself to have the dirt tested again.

“We took the worst-looking pile we could find and tested that,” she said. The result was 200 parts per million of petroleum hydrocarbons, well below the DEQ’s acceptable 250 parts per million for lower layers of the landfill.

If the deal goes through, Anderson will have solved one of its own problems: what to do with a huge excavation at Carlysle. If Prince William and other localities don’t accept it, the company will have to truck the dirt farther away — to landfills that are already highly contaminated.

The matter is expected to resurface tonight when the board meets again.

The committee has given the county six points to consider before going forward with the deal, Moon said. “But the one that means the most to us is to test one in 10 truckloads.”

The committee is reluctantly agreeing, she said, because the alternative is to start cutting down trees in her own area to find more dirt.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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