Lynchburg, Virginia: Jefferson Park is a beautiful looking piece of land that rests just over a stone’s throw away from the James River. The park is currently home to a play ground and has even attracted some residential apartment buildings to form around it. However, Jefferson Park has begun showing signs of what it once was, Dearington Landfill.

City officials have recently sighted some severe erosion taking place in Jefferson Park. The erosion started to reveal trash that was dumped over a half century ago. From vintage pop bottles to plastic bags, it is not uncommon to come across garbage rising from the ground as you make your way around the park.

A full-fledged investigation has started to uncover not only the waste removal practices of the past, but also to find an appropriate plan for the park moving forward. Unfortunately, there is zero information available regarding how the dump was closed, they have even been reaching out to those who used to work at Dearington Landfill in hopes of gaining more insight. Officials believe that a liner or cover was used, but there is still no evidence of that yet.

What they do know is the dump was closed in the late 1960’s. This means it was not subject to the stringent environmental standards that are enforced on shuttered landfills today. The lack of regulations of this era has resulted in any landfill closed prior to 1988 being classified as a ‘dump.’

The problem plaguing Jefferson Park is not an uncommon issue and investigators have yet to discover any regulations being broken. Although there is still a real danger facing Lynchburg and area residents have been notified of the situation. By early next year, the eroded parts of the old dump will be removed and properly disposed.

Another concern is that nearby waterways could become contaminated, though authorities cannot rule out that they haven’t been already. Usually allowing for the growth of vegetation is not the standard when capping a landfill. Experts believe the dense vegetation that has sprung up around Jefferson Park is the primary cause of the erosion, and will lead to additional problems.

“You don’t want any vegetation putting roots through the landfill cap and thus allowing stormwater to filter through a landfill creating leachate,” said Tom Shahady, Lynchburg College Professor of Environmental Sciences. “Thus you want the storm water to run off the site and it would follow in my mind that if they manage this runoff, it would create large erosion over time. So this is really no surprise.”

Leachate is the liquid that passes through landfills and collects contaminants along the way. City Officials must find a way to stop it from further eroding the land, but also ensure it has not reached any waterways. Most of the time the leakage occurs completely below the surface of the ground, so it is essential to dive deep into the old dump.

The Dearington Landfill closed along with about 800 other dumps over a span of two decades. Many of these closed dumps have never been subjected to any regulations and it has been over 17 years since any testing of gases has taken place in Lynchburg. Under today’s standards, a sealed landfill is required to be monitored by the property’s owner for at least 30 years.

Although Lynchburg has exhibited a questionable waste removal past, they are taking the appropriate steps to correct the issues. After they have run a great deal of testing, and when the eroded areas have been removed, the city must assess the conditions of the landfill cover. Properly repairing a landfill seal will be a tremendous undertaking, which will cost a lot of both time and money.

On top of all these issues, the City of Lynchburg faces one more problem, and its located 75 feet below all the garbage. Experts believe that storm water drains running from nearby apartments, ones that run underneath Jefferson Park, have also become eroded due to the massive amounts of stormwater that have trickled through the old landfill. These will need to be replaced, a project that is currently planned to be implemented by the summer of 2015.

This project may have been preventable and it would have saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, once the improvements have been made, it will provide a sense of environmental security for hundreds of years. It is refreshing to see the City of Lynchburg stepping up and taking responsibility for its poor waste removal practices of the past.

If the City of Lynchburg or any Virginia area residents need proper waste removal services, please contact Budget Dumpster.