On Thursday, May 26, the City of Bristol Tennessee filed a verified complaint in United States District Court in Abingdon, Virginia against Bristol, Virginia in relation to the Bristol, Virginia landfill. Bristol, Tennessee also filed a motion for preliminary injunction and supporting memorandum.
Since the fall of 2020, Bristol, Tennessee has experienced impacts to its air, land and water treatment system as a result of improper management of the Bristol, Virginia landfill. Citizens have been significantly impacted by odors, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) has determined that the conditions at the landfill are an emergency that requires urgent action. VDEQ convened an expert panel in March 2022 to identify actions to be taken to address the conditions at the landfill. Although the expert panel released its report in April 2022, Bristol, Virginia has not implemented any of the recommended actions.
In filing this lawsuit, Bristol, Tennessee is exercising its rights under two federal laws, the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, to bring a citizen suit to require Bristol, Virginia to comply with its permits and to address the public danger created by improper management of the landfill. The request for preliminary injunction asks the federal court to order Bristol, Virginia to immediately cease the intake of waste at the landfill, as well as to implement the recommendations of the VDEQ expert panel that were identified as “urgent” and in need of immediate implementation. The complaint cites a number of operational deficiencies at the landfill that have resulted in multiple notices of violation from the DEQ and the consequences they have had on the public’s health and the environment.
“For at least two years, Bristol, Virginia has been in continual violation of the permits issued by DEQ while taking no concrete steps to address these problems,” said Bristol, Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah. “These violations stem from a failure to properly manage the landfill, which not only violates state and federal law, but has also resulted in a number of adverse impacts on the quality of life for our community.”
Bristol, Tennessee is also seeking to recover damages arising from Bristol, Virginia’s inadequate operation of the landfill. To date, Bristol, Tennessee has spent thousands of dollars to fund a program to provide air purifiers to economically disadvantaged residents; to obtain a report from a third-party toxicologist regarding the long-term health effects of continued exposure to landfill odors and emissions; and to explore the legal options available to protect the community and the city itself.
Once the complaint is served on Bristol, Virginia’s registered agent, the city will have 21 days to file a response. Bristol, Tennessee is represented by the law firm of Troutman, Pepper, Hamilton and Sanders, of Richmond, Virginia and by E. Lynn Dougherty of Bristol, Tennessee. The full text of the complaint and supporting documents may be viewed at the links below.
2. Expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction
3. Memorandum in Support of Preliminary Injunction