Fairfax supervisors likely to defer vote on extending life of Lorton landfill


Greg Cave sorts through construction debris for recyclable materials at Lorton Construction Debris Landfill, owned by Envirosolutions January 24, 2014. The company agreed to close the landfill in 2018, leaving behind a park, but things got complicated, and the firm is asking Fairfax County for permission to keep operating until 2040. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on a controversial proposal to extend the life of a landfill in Lorton after an often-heated hearing over the proposal Tuesday lasted until late into the night.

The board decided to put off the vote until June 17. Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, favored the postponement.

Frank McDermott, an attorney for EnviroSolutions, the waste company that is proposing the extension, said he had never “experienced the nastiness, the dirtiness and the misrepresentations incurred in this application.” He spoke at the outset of a hearing that listed 99 speakers.

“This application is about the redevelopment and revitalization goals in the county, about sustainability, about stability for the landfill and about enhanced environmental protection at the landfill,” McDermott said.

The Manassas-based company is seeking to increase capacity at the landfill just off the Occoquan River and keep it in operation until 2034. The company said that the landfill is a necessity for the region and that it will still have unused capacity at the time of its scheduled closure in 2018.

In exchange for an extension, EnviroSolutions is offering to install wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal technology on the site, as well as to provide $18.2 million for local recreational uses.

A months-long battle over the landfill proposal has ignited passion on both sides, even dividing Fairfax supervisors, after EnviroSolutions pitched the idea of helping build a “Green Energy Triangle” in a portion of the county that has long been known for an array of industrial facilities and for the District’s former prison.

Lorton is home to a rock quarry, a county-owned ash landfill and a Covanta Energy waste-to-energyplant. The closing of the Lorton Correctional Complex in 2001 helped trigger the development of shopping centers and residential subdivisions.

Homeowners hoping to attract more retail stores and restaurants to the area have been eager for the landfill to close.

As part of a 2005 agreement, EnviroSolutions had committed to the 2018 date and to leaving behind a sprawling rural park at the site.

The company is now seeking to abandon that idea after the county park authority decided against assuming insurance liability for the park.

During the hearing, community frustration with EnviroSolutions flared.

Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), whose district includes the landfill, questioned whether EnviroSolutions would follow through on building the green-energy components.

Nicholas Firth, president of the South County Federation, a group of homeowners associations, showed digital representations of the landfill, which overlooks
Interstate 95, after an increase in its capacity.

“As you enter Fairfax County, this is the gateway,” said Firth, as an image appeared onscreen of what would be a 70-foot high berm needed to support an expanded landfill.

“This community is certainly supportive of green energy, but green energy that is feasible and realistic,” Firth said. “I don’t think you’ll hear anyone at this hearing in favor of dumping trash in the ground and covering it up.”

Antonio covers government, politics and other regional issues in Fairfax County. He worked in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago before joining the Post in September of 2013.
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