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Posted on: June 14, 2022

Bristol, Tenn. Issues Statement Regarding Pending Landfill Litigation

The City of Bristol, Tennessee has issued the following statement regarding the pending litigation resulting from the ongoing public nuisance caused by the Bristol, Virginia landfill:

Today, a significant victory has been won for the people of Bristol. Bristol, Tennessee has obtained an agreement from Bristol, Virginia to close the landfill and to immediately take actions to address the ongoing impacts on our community. This victory was achieved directly as a result of Bristol, Tennessee’s commitment to protecting its citizens. Bristol, Tennessee has carefully developed the necessary record to file legal action that enabled this agreement to be reached, and to ensure that it will be enforced in federal court. Below is the timeline associated with the actions taken by Bristol, Tennessee that led to this victory.

In September 2021, Bristol, Tennessee retained outside legal counsel to develop a strategy for addressing the landfill. Through legal counsel, a health toxicologist was retained to assess the health impacts of the landfill on our community.

On December 8, 2022, Bristol, Tennessee filed a notice of intent to sue Bristol, Virginia for violations of the Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and for damages incurred from the related nuisance conditions.

On January 12, 2022, Bristol, Tennessee held a community meeting with its health toxicologist to share the results of Bristol, Tennessee’s health risk assessment.

Also in January, public records were sought from Bristol, Virginia regarding the operation and maintenance of the landfill.

In March, 2022, Bristol, Tennessee’s attorneys filed suit against Bristol, Virginia for their failure to produce the requested records. A hearing was held in April, and the records were produced on April 20, 2022.

Also in March 2022, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) convened a panel of experts in Bristol, Virginia to outline the actions necessary to address the violations and other concerns at the landfill. Bristol, Tennessee retained a consultant that participated on that panel. The expert panel’s report was issued on April 25, 2022.

On May 26, 2022, the City of Bristol, Tennessee filed a verified complaint along with a motion for preliminary injunction in United States District Court in Abingdon, Virginia against Bristol, Virginia as a result of Bristol, Virginia’s continued failure to properly operate and maintain their solid waste landfill. This complaint alleges violations of both the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The motion for preliminary injunction seeks an order requiring Bristol, Virginia to implement the following actions:

  1. Install a sidewall odor mitigation system around the perimeter of Defendant’s Bristol Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility located at 2125 Shakesville Road, Bristol, Virginia, 24201(the “Landfill”);
  2. Install and monitor a dedicated system of thermocouples in the waste mass to monitor Landfill temperatures;
  3. Cease accepting waste at the Landfill; 
  4. Provide adequate cover of the waste at the Landfill; and 
  5. Submit a report within sixty days detailing how the other recommendations of the Expert Panel Report: Bristol Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility, Bristol, Virginia, dated April 25, 2022, will be accomplished. 

 A hearing on Bristol, TN’s requested preliminary injunction was set by the court for June 21, 2022.

On May 27, Bristol, Virginia submitted an offer to settle the matter, the terms of which were shared by Bristol, Virginia with and reported by local media.  Bristol, Virginia’s offer did not include any timelines for implementation and was contingent on outside funding being obtained.

On June 2, Bristol, Tennessee, through outside counsel, reiterated its position that Bristol, Virginia must undertake the actions outlined in Bristol, Tennessee’s motion for preliminary injunction. Bristol, Tennessee drafted a preliminary injunction order that included those actions along with specific timelines suggested by Bristol, Tennessee’s engineering consultants: 90 days to install thermocouples, cease accepting waste, and provide adequate waste cover at the Landfill, and 365 days to install the sidewall odor mitigation system.

In direct response to the actions taken by Bristol, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia requested to meet with DEQ.  That meeting took place on June 7. At that meeting, Bristol, Virginia, for the first time, agreed to comply with the terms of the expert panel report.  Additionally, based on a June 8 letter from DEQ posted on Bristol, Virginia’s website, Bristol, Virginia also committed to undertake the actions outlined in Bristol, Tennessee’s proposed preliminary injunction order, including the same timelines specified by Bristol, Tennessee.   However, any consent order issued by DEQ would not take effect until August, at the earliest.

At noon on Wednesday, June 8, Bristol, Tennessee’s outside counsel received a response that Bristol, Virginia could agree to the preliminary injunction, but with some reservations. 

On June 9, Bristol, Tennessee’s outside counsel responded to Bristol, Virginia, rejecting those reservations and reiterating the commitments needed from Bristol, Virginia. The parties continued to negotiate terms, with Bristol, Tennessee holding firm that specific actions and concrete timelines must be outlined in the order. 

On June 10, Bristol, Virginia agreed to the terms demanded by Bristol, Tennessee, and the resulting preliminary injunction order was filed with the court this morning. We are optimistic that the judge will enter the order.  Once entered by the judge, this order will provide a clear set of actions and enforceable timeline, starting from the date of entry of the order, for addressing issues at the landfill.  While this order resolves Bristol, Tennessee’s motion for preliminary injunction, the lawsuit against Bristol, Virginia remains open, giving Bristol, Tennessee the ability to seek further enforcement action and damages if necessary.  Bristol, Tennessee will closely monitor Bristol, Virginia’s compliance with this order.

The preliminary injunction order is the result of Bristol, Tennessee’s focused, diligent efforts to address the adverse impacts of the landfill on our community.   Bristol, Tennessee looks forward to continuing a positive relationship with Bristol, Virginia as we work through this and future endeavors together.

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