Bristol VA Landfill

Bristol, Tenn. City Council takes additional actions related to Bristol, Va. landfill

December 7, 2021

At their business meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 7, the Bristol Tennessee City Council approved a resolution authorizing outside counsel to take steps to commence legal action against Bristol, Virginia relating to compliance issues associated with its landfill.  The resolution directs the law firm of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders, LLP to prepare a Notice of Intent to Sue and serve it on the city of Bristol, Virginia. This move comes in response to the continued adverse impacts on the quality of life of residents due to odors emanating from the Bristol, Virginia landfill.

City Council was advised that in order to pursue legal action related to the landfill under the Clean Air Act, a Notice of Intent to Sue must be served on Bristol, Virginia at least 60 days before filing suit. This Notice does not obligate the city of Bristol, Tennessee to pursue legal action, nor does it prevent the city from working with Bristol, Virginia to resolve landfill-related problems in a non-judicial setting, but simply serves to protect the city’s interests and preserve its legal rights. If Bristol, Tennessee does pursue legal action, it would be aimed at resolving the continuing issues posed by the Bristol, Virginia landfill for the benefit of the city as a whole. The city is unable to seek damages on behalf of individual residents.

In other action taken by City Council, an amended appropriation agreement with United Way of Bristol TN/VA was approved authorizing up to $30,000 in additional funds to support the city’s air purifier assistance program. This total includes the $10,000 previously committed by City Council for this program when it was announced in November. These funds will be used by United Way to provide income-qualified residents of Bristol, Tennessee with in-home air purification units that may help alleviate the effects of landfill emissions in their homes. To date, United Way has received a total of 628 applications for assistance through the program. Units have been distributed to 59 individuals who have completed the qualification process, with an additional 51 applicants recently approved for pickup. Eligible residents may complete the program application online at unitedwaybristol.org.

  1. Frequently Asked Questions
  2. Assistance Programs

Answers to a number of frequently asked questions regarding the Bristol, Virginia landfill will be posted here.

What steps are being taken to mitigate the gases and odors coming from the Bristol, VA landfill?

According to updates released by the City of Bristol, Virginia, 21 new gas wells have been installed at the landfill. These wells are anticipated to be connected to the gas collection system by mid to late December 2021. Additional mitigation efforts are expected to follow.

The City of Bristol, Virginia posts landfill-related updates on their website here.

Where can I find the report from the EPA's previous air monitoring?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) conducted air monitoring activities in Bristol from June 9 - July 22, 2021. A report summarizing these activities and analytical results may be found here.

The EPA also conducted additional air monitoring from October 19 - 28, 2021. For all monitoring activities, EPA has stated that they will provide the data collected to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to assist in evaluating if the odors contain hazardous substances and if they pose a risk to human health.

Is there potential for my drinking water to be contaminated by the landfill?

The source of the City of Bristol, Tennessee’s drinking water is the South Holston River approximately 1.3 miles below the South Holston Dam. The river water is pumped to the Bristol, Tennessee Water Filtration Plant where contaminants are removed from the water and it is disinfected prior to distribution to the City’s 13,000 water customers. Utility Division staff collect water samples at various points in the filtration process and throughout the water distribution system. Water samples are analyzed for potential contaminants including bacteria, heavy metals, and organic compounds. Drinking water consistently meets or exceeds all health standards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Water is distributed to customers through a series of reservoirs, pump stations, pipes, and service lines. The lines are pressurized to serve customers and provide fire protection. Contamination from groundwater is highly unlikely since the lines are pressurized.

For anyone who is not a customer of Bristol, Tennessee's water system, please contact your water utility for any questions or concerns related to the safety of your drinking water.

Is there potential for the sanitary sewer system to contain gas and other contaminants from the Bristol, VA landfill?

Leachate from the Bristol, Virginia landfill is discharged to the sanitary sewer collection system owned and operated by Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority (BVU).  The leachate mixes with other sources of sewage in BVU’s sewer collection system and ultimately discharges to the City of Bristol, Tennessee’s system, traveling southwest toward the wastewater treatment facility. The landfill is not directly connected to the City of Bristol, Tennessee’s sewer collection system.

The sewage diluted with the leachate does not flow through the areas of Bristol, Tennessee that have been heavily impacted by landfill gas odors, particularly the Fairmount, King University, and Forest Hills neighborhoods. While sanitary sewer systems can naturally contain gases that result from biological processes occurring in wastewater, it is highly unlikely the odors from the landfill being experienced by the citizens are originating from the Bristol, Tennessee collection system.

The impact of the landfill emissions may be affecting my mental health. What resources are available?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), environmental concerns in your community can disrupt daily life, resulting in significant stress. This ongoing stress can lead to mental and physical health effects.

They have provided this fact sheet to share ways to help cope with the stress that environmental contamination can cause. Most importantly, if you or your loved ones begin to feel overwhelmed as a result of this stress, please seek help from:

If you are in need of someone to lean on for immediate emotional support, no matter what problems you’re dealing with, the Lifeline network is available for everyone. It's free and confidential. Call the Lifeline anytime, 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

Partners for Stronger Communities, formerly known as Bristol Crisis Center, is a participant in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.