On Aug. 6, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to dump trash at the I-95 landfill until the year 2020. This decision came despite evidence that the county's operations at the landfill don't comply with state Department of Waste Management regulations, and despite evidence that leachate from the landfill may be polluting the Occoquan River and, ultimately, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The board chose not to consider alternative methods of waste disposal, including more aggressive recycling and waste separation, as well as composting.
The landfill is on federal land over which the District has use and control for its prison complex in Lorton. In 1987, the District made a portion of the site available to the county for $1 a month, with the understanding that Fairfax would operate and even expand the landfill to accommodate the trash needs of Washington as well as its own disposal needs.
In return, the District agreed to institute a recycling program with a goal of 25 percent recycling and to construct its own incinerator to burn the remainder of its solid waste. At that time, Fairfax anticipated that only ash from the District's incinerator would have to be landfilled in Lorton.
Unfortunately for Fairfax, the D.C. Council voted not to construct a mass-burn facility until the recycling rate in the city reaches the stated goal of 25 percent (the recycling rate now in the District is 5 percent). So the citizens of Fairfax County have been left holding the bag for all of the District's trash. And instead of pressuring D.C. officials to comply with the 1987 agreement or to reduce the waste stream it sends to Lorton, the board has sat on its heels.
Even worse, it has proposed expanding the landfill onto another portion of prison land, where Youth Center I is located. Fairfax County would then have to pay to relocate Youth Center I to an another part of the prison complex -- at estimates ranging from $30 million to $160 million. Costs aside, the relocation would place Youth Center I uncomfortably close to neighboring residential developments, such as Newington Forest in Springfield and newly developed Crosspointe in Fairfax Station -- this despite years of grandstanding by county officials about getting rid of the prison altogether.
The board of supervisors has turned its back on the Lorton area residents before. Now it is turning its back on residents of Fairfax Station and Springfield who live near the prison. It is also turning its back on those county residents who stand to lose the recreational use of the Occoquan River and Occoquan Regional Park because of pollution caused by the landfill.
Instead of mandating the use of the I-95 landfill for 30 more years, the board should take steps to clean it up. It should also develop alternative methods of waste reduction so that continued landfilling won't be necessary. Finally, it should pressure the District to speed up its recycling program and build its own incinerator.
Is that too much ask?
Apparently board chairman Audrey Moore and supervisors Sharon Bulova, Martha Pennino and Katherine Hanley think so. They're the ones who voted for 30 more years of a landfill at Lorton.
-- Laurie A. Frost is a member of the Federation of Lorton Committees.