Landfill bill raising ire in northeastern part of state

Jun. 26, 2013 @ 06:36 PM

NORFOLK, Va. — A southeastern Virginia city that borders North Carolina is casting a wary eye toward legislation that could allow a large landfill just over the state line.

Chesapeake officials fear a landfill in Camden County could degrade its drinking water supply, threaten the region's economic development and endanger the long-term viability of a Navy facility that straddles the state line and is used by multiple branches of the military.

The North Carolina Senate approved legislation Monday scaling back restrictions on new landfills that supporters say would help meet future in-state trash demands. But opponents contend it would allow huge dumps for out-of-state trash.

Among other things, the bill awaiting action in the North Carolina House would reduce the buffer zone between proposed landfills and lands protected by the state and federal governments. The distances currently range from one to five miles. The proposal would reduce all buffers to 1,500 feet.

The 5-mile buffer approved under a 2007 law contributed to the state's denial of a permit for a proposed landfill in Camden County by the Great Dismal Swamp, less than a mile from Chesapeake. The landfill would have been in the watershed of the city's Northwest River.

The bill also narrows reasons that state regulators can reject permit applications, such as by eliminating language justifying a denial because the landfill would cause "significant damage" to ecological systems, cultural sites, parks and wilderness areas.

"The City of Chesapeake believes a matter of this importance, potentially affecting residents of both state's economic future, drinking water supply, critical federal military operations, and protected natural resources must be given time for substantial public input and informed deliberation. Northeastern North Carolina's and Southeastern Virginia's continued economic viability is at stake," a post on the city's website says.

Following the bill's Senate passage, Chesapeake issued a statement on Tuesday encouraging its residents to contact North Carolina lawmakers to express their concerns.

One of Chesapeake's major concerns with a landfill is that it could disrupt military operations at the Chesapeake-based Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads Northwest Annex. The military is one of the region's major employers and city officials fear the landfill could jeopardize the base's operations if another round of base closures is ordered.

Navy and Marine anti-terrorism and force protection commands use the 3,600-acre facility, which has one of the Navy's largest small-arms ranges. The Navy, Coast Guard and NATO also use the facility for strategic communication activities.

"The concern we have is that the amount of earth moving activity associated with the landfill has the potential to cause electromagnetic interference which would impact the radar system on the base at Northwest Annex," said Katisha Draughn-Fraguada, a Navy spokeswoman for the facility, said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The amended proposal would allow state regulators to deny a permit if a proposed landfill would have a "significant adverse impact on the mission, training, or operations of any military installation or branch of the military."

Draughn-Fraduada said the Navy would make judgments on actual impacts if state or local approval of a landfill near the annex is reconsidered.

"To this end, we would expect to be consulted and given the opportunity to comment on the details of any proposed landfill well before any permit is granted by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources," she wrote.

North Carolina Senate Bill 238 was referred to the House Environment Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee and co-chairman of the House Environment Committee, has previously said earlier this week he didn't know how the bill would fare in his chamber and knew little about the legislation's contents.