The Dumfries Town Council, in a split vote last week, agreed to certify that the Potomac Landfill, a 32.2-acre construction debris landfill in the northwestern section of town, is in compliance with applicable town ordinances and should be allowed to continue operation.

After the vote, the council unanimously agreed to establish official guidelines for local inspection of the landfill, which has been the subject of two lawsuits by the town since the landfill began operations in a residentially zoned area in 1983.

Under a 1987 court-ordered agreement between the town and the landfill's current owners, the Great Falls-based Crippen Co., the landfill is operating "as a permitted use under the present zoning."

The council also agreed last week to develop a construction debris landfill ordinance that would apply to future landfills or landfilling in the town.

"Let's take a pro-active approach to it {the landfill}. Let's have some guidelines about how we are going to proceed in the future," said Town Manager Tom Harris.

An error in the state's certification of landfills in the early- to mid-1980s prompted the state to ask for recertification of landfills that began operation in those years.

Crippen said it had requested town certification of its landfill in February and, when it was not forthcoming, filed an injunction last week. John Watt, Crippen's vice president of operations, said the firm will not remove the request until the state accepts the town's certification.

Town officials said they delayed a decision in part because they were awaiting a study by the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission on the landfill's enviromental impact. They also said that they were well within a November deadline for certification.

The study, along with recommendations on how local officials could more effectively inspect the landfill and suggestions on how to develop a construction debris landfill ordinance, were presented to the council last week. The study concluded that Potomac Landfill is in compliance with all town codes and ordinances.

Watt described the "full-blown landfill inspection package" as a "terrible waste of the town's money considering that we're already inspected for those things by the state." Watt also argued that the town does not have qualified personnel to conduct the inspections.

Charles Sakowicz, Dumfries director of public works, countered that the town's inspection would in some respects be more extensive because it would monitor the complete 83-acre site for compliance with town ordinances, not just the 32.3-acre facility inspected by the state.

Sakowicz said he plans to send several staff members to Northern Virginia Community College to study sediment and erosion control inspection and may solicit assistance on inspections from the Planning District Commission.