July 2, 2008

Virginia Beach Sees Options for Post-SPSA Trash Handling

By Richard Quinn, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jul. 2--VIRGINIA BEACH -- City leaders got a peek into the future Tuesday -- and it looked pretty trashy.

That's because City Council got its first public glance at a report on waste disposal if the Southeastern Public Service Authority closes in 2018. That's when SPSA, which handles trash for the five cities of South Hampton Roads, is scheduled to cease to exist as an agency.

Virginia Beach's answer to the end of SPSA could be an "urban landfill" at the Mount Trashmore II site along the border with Chesapeake. A pair of reports at Tuesday's council meeting showed no environmental or health concerns should stop development of an urban landfill. But the site would spawn noise, dust and odor.

To blunt the effects of those issues on nearby residents, environmental consultant Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. reported the city could use state-of-the-art technologies, buffering and landscaping.

Each comes with a cost, but buying land for a buffer zone would be the most expensive. The report estimated it could take $37 million to $61 million to create a 250- to 500-foot buffer between the landfill and residents.

On the flip side, if the city ran its own waste system, officials said it would cost less than what SPSA charges for the service -- even if Virginia Beach built a facility with broad buffers. The savings could be millions of dollars a year.

City workers, however, emphasized that no decisions have been made and none is expected until next year.

The Beach's report is a first step. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission is working on a study involving the fate of SPSA, which could be released early next year. A state study is also in play.

The strategies aren't recommendations, said Phil Davenport, a city public works official. "They are preliminary looks at different types of strategies that could be possible."

Virginia Beach is in the enviable position of having space for a landfill, said City Manager Jim Spore. Having the land set aside gives the city options, but the site has problems, too.

A SPSA-run composting operation closed there last year because of concerns from neighbors about odors and potential health risks.

The Christian Broadcasting Network, which owns land near the landfill, has proposed development in the area, including a large mixed-use complex of shops, homes and offices.

City officials have concerns about blending garbage workers, residents, shoppers and office workers.

Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said she was pleased to see the city tackling the issue of what to do with waste disposal years into the future.

"These are really important discussions to start," she said. "These (decisions) are 10 years out, but that's not very far."

Richard Quinn, (757) 222-5119, [email protected]


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