Erosion exposes trash from former Elkton landfill

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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) — Work is set to begin soon to prevent further erosion to a riverbank adjacent to a shuttered landfill where trash previously buried underground has become exposed.

An open field with sparsely-planted trees is all that remains of the eight-acre landfill near Old Spotswood Trail in Elkton, behind what is now a recycling container site. But the water from the South Fork Shenandoah River has carved into the landscape along the edge of the site, causing metal and other materials to jut out from the surface.

The problem dates back decades and previous efforts to fix it failed, according to Graham Simmerman with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

"We often see conflicts with rivers in terms of infrastructure, just the way that we've developed the land, or where we may have thought would be a location for, in this case, a landfill," Kip Mumaw, the manager and principal engineer of Ecosystem Services, said.

The Charlottesville firm was contracted to stabilize the bank. The project will involve cutting a flood plain bench to reduce the speed of the river and installing structures to deflect the water flow.

The crew will have about a three-month window to complete the work, according to Mumaw. But the water level could impact the timeline.

"[The level] changes from day to day," said Mumaw. "Base flow around here is around 900 cubic feet per second, in that ballpark. Just yesterday it jumped up another 1,000 cubic feet per second."

A previous study of the site found no hazardous material was contaminating the water, according to Mumaw.

"It certainly isn't good for the river to have this ongoing erosion," he said. "Both sediment, any nutrients and other pollutants that may be bound up into it, in addition to the solid waste, but it doesn't pose an immediate risk to the aquatic life."

The $600,000 project will be paid for by contributions from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, DEQ and funds from the DuPont plant settlement.

A preconstruction meeting is set for Monday, June 17. Kimberly Alexander, Elkton's town manager, said crews should be present in the coming weeks.