County Commission Special Meeting with Solid Waste Authority and WV DEP

During a special Pocahontas County Commission meeting on Friday, April 12th, the commissioners met with the members of the county’s Solid Waste Authority, and with Scott G. Mandirola, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary of the WV Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Jason Wandling, the DEP’s General Counsel. The purpose of the meeting was to clarify what the DEP’s closure and post closure monitoring and maintenance requirements are and what they will cost once the landfill reaches its capacity and closes in a couple of years.

As we have informed our listeners in multiple past landfill related stories, the Solid Waste authority has been trying to decide how to continue garbage collection and disposal in the county post landfill.

The authority has been negotiating the purchase of the landfill site from Renee Fertig-Hall, whose family has been leasing the property to the Solid Waste Authority for decades.

There had even been a suggestion that if the Solid Waste Authority does not purchase the landfill from Fertig-Hill, that her family would be liable for the required 30 years of post-closure maintenance and monitoring of leachate -which is the water that settles in the bottom of a landfill and picks up contaminates – at the closed landfill.

Mandirola quickly put an end to that speculation. He said that under West Virginia law, “The landfill itself is owned by the Solid Waste Authority, even if the surface of the property is owned or leased by someone else.” He explained the landfill is actually what was disposed of under the surface by the authority while it was operating under a permit issued by the DEP, so regardless of who may own the property, the Solid Waste Authority will always own the landfill and all the responsibilities for closure and post closure will be theirs.

There was a discussion about the possible purchase of the landfill, after which there seemed to be a consensus that both parties have pretty well settled on a price of about $129,990 for the purchase of the 40-acre tract of land. They also have pretty much agreed on the boundaries of the parcel, but the issue of the Solid Waste Authority needing to build a fence along the public road which runs through Renee’s farm from the state highway (Route 28) to the landfill, remains unsettled. Fertig-Hill explained that the existing fence is too close to the road and unstable, so that when the DOH plows the road, they push snow into it, which knocks it down every winter. Estimates which were cited of the cost to build a suitable fence to protect her cows from the traffic varied from $6.00 to $7.50 a foot for the ½ mile long fence, which would be set back further from the road. Commission President Walt Helmick said that could be easily worked out.

Helmick indicated that since the purchase would be too expensive for the Solid Waste Authority, the responsibility for purchasing the land and helping with construction and equipment could possibly fall to the commission. He said the responsibility for running the transfer station would still rest with Solid Waste operating under a state permit. Mark Holstine suggested that if that works out, there should be a perpetual memorandum of agreement spelling out the responsibilities of the County Commission and of the Solid Waste Authority, He said that would ensure that future commissions would remain financially obligated to the agreement.

Mary Clendenon said that the Public Service Commission (PSC) holds two bonded escrow accounts which the authority has been required to fund for many years by providing a percentage of their tipping fees. The first one is a landfill closure bond which has about 1.2 million dollars in it. Its purpose is to pay for the closure and capping of the landfill. She said the cost of closing the landfill was estimated by engineers back in 2021 to be about 1.8 million dollars, but that cost has probably gone up due to inflation. The other escrow account is for construction and equipment and has about over $700,000 in it. The use of that money is restricted by the PSC.

She also estimated the post closure costs of testing the landfill water and of maintaining the cap will run about $75,000 per year.

Mark Holstine of the State Solid Waste Authority said the he believes the PSC might very well permit the use of some of that construction and equipment escrow money to build the fence along the road, and maybe also to help with the construction of the new transfer station and with purchase of equipment for it. Jason Wandling of the DEP said that the PSC might allow that, but the DEP would not be involved in that decision.

Helmick asked for a sales agreement to be brought to him. Helmick said he would schedule another special commission meeting for Thursday, April 18th at 4:30 pm with Solid Waste. At that meeting, he said he wants three questions to be answered:

  1. What is the exact price to buy the landfill property.
  2. What is the cost of the ongoing testing of the
  3. What is the exact cost of the fencing of the road.

The meeting ended with an optimistic sense that the future of waste disposal in Pocahontas County will work out well for all parties. Both of the officials from the WV DEP remarked that they are impressed with the level of cooperation they see here to work things out, and they wish they saw those same levels in other counties they work with.


Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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