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Lorton-area residents are continuing to fight the proposed expansion of a construction debris landfill.

EnviroSolutions Inc. wants to expand the capacity of the Lorton Landfill and keep it open until 2034. Under its current permit, the landfill must close by 2018 and would be replaced by a recycling facility.

In exchange, ESI says it will turn the landfill into what it calls a green energy park, generating electricity from solar panels, wind turbines, a landfill methane capture system and a geothermal system.

At a public hearing that drew nearly 100 speakers, many residents – including civil engineers and people with professional backgrounds in green energy – cast doubt on ESI’s plans, accusing the company of “greenwashing” the landfill expansion.

“This entire effort has been a greenwash of the extension and enlargement of a dump,” said Lorton resident Larry Clark.

Clark and many other speakers argued that there is nothing in the development conditions associated with the project that ensures that ESI will ever put any of the green energy components, except the solar panels that would go on the property that would otherwise become a debris recycling center.

“This is a travesty,” said Peter Weyland, a board member of the Mason Neck Citizens Association. “Your children, your grandchildren will be looking at a mountain of trash that does not need to be there.”

For some of the green energy components, the development conditions use the terms “shall install.” The document requires that ESI install the first wind turbine within 18 months of getting all federal, state and county permits and the second and third turbines within 36 months. The conditions also state that the landfill owner “shall install” the methane capture system and the geothermal system.

However, there are also provisions that allow ESI to pay fines to the county in lieu of installing the energy generation systems, with the exception of the first batch of solar panels.

For additional wind and solar generation opportunities that could be installed on top of the landfill as operations begin to wind down, ESI is only required to provide “the opportunity” to install additional wind and solar equipment by constructing platforms on top of the landfill, according to the development conditions.

Supporters of the project say that the park presents a great opportunity for the county to get into the green energy game.

To not approve the landfill plan would be “a lost opportunity for the county to meet the goals and objectives defined by the Private Sector Energy Task Force,” said Joe Vidulich, vice president for government relations at the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

The task force was a 2012 effort to identify ways to increase green energy use, generation and jobs in the county. One of its recommendations was to work with the private sector to create pilot green energy projects.

“This application will enhance the county’s reputation as a premier business location,” Vidulich said.

Business groups in the county, along with ESI, also contend that the landfill capacity is needed to support ongoing construction and redevelopment in the county. Otherwise, several speakers said, debris will end up being trucked farther away, increasing to the cost to businesses.

“If we do not maintain our own landfill, we lose control of a very valuable asset,” said Eileen Curtis, president and CEO of the Dulles Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents of the project contend that most construction debris can and should be recycled. Speakers said that keeping the landfill open creates a disincentive for recycling, because its dumping rates are cheaper than that of a recycling facility.

“We think that recycling is a much greener result for the environment than just burying unrecyled trash,” said Gloria Bannister, speaking for the Gunston Square Community Association.

According to ESI, about 24 percent of the material that came into the Lorton Landfill last year consisted of residual debris from area recycling centers – material that cannot be recycled – and another 25 percent consisted of dirt that could not be reused or repurposed due to state regulations.

The landfill recycled 36 percent of the remaining 663,000 tons of material that came into the landfill with the potential for recycling.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the future of the landfill at its June 17 meeting.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com