Loudoun’s Superfund Site Headed for Cleanup

A closed landfill that contaminated drinking water in surrounding neighborhoods and made the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most contaminated sites in the nation will finally be cleaned up.

The 25-acre Hidden Lane landfill opened in 1971, mainly as a dump site for construction debris. It had a rocky history, with the county government challenging the landfill’s owners, Philip Smith and Albert Moran, in court many times. Large fires erupted at the landfill more than once. In 1985, the landfill shut down for good. Its impact, however, lingered on.

In 1989, swirling concerns about the landfill’s contamination of groundwater were confirmed when a common degreaser, trichloroethylene, was found in well water at homes in nearby Broad Run Farms. Wells serving 22 homes tested positive for the chemical, with 16 above safe drinking levels. Homeowners were advised to install carbon filters to make their water safe to drink.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency added the 150-acre area around the landfill to its Superfund list of the country’s most contaminated sites. The agency has also been monitoring the plume of contamination underground with monitoring wells.

Today, the landfill—north of Rt. 7 between Broad Run Farms and CountrySide and bordering the Potomac River—sits vacant, looking more like a park than an environmental hazard.

That will begin to change under an agreement filed in Federal District Court last week. The order creates a mechanism for the landowners to repay the still unknown cost of the cleanup and sets the stage for the eventual development of the land.

The landfill lies in the Algonkian District, which has been represented by Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R) since 2011.

“When I first ran, I had known about the Hidden Lane landfill, and I told the folks there that I was going to push as hard as I could,” Volpe said. She said whatever happens on the property, “number one, of course is to protect the residents.”

“EPA’s and the state’s goal is to return the groundwater to beneficial use,” said EPA spokesman Roy Seneca.  “When this is done, no restriction on groundwater use will be necessary to protect the public health.  The landfill will remain.  Restrictions on how the site is used will be necessary in order to ensure the landfill area will not be disturbed.”

The landfill’s original owners, Smith and Moran, have since passed away. Moran died in 1987, and Smith in 2008. In both cases, their heirs would not accept responsibility for the landfill until the claims against it were settled, and its ownership remained uncertain.

In 2012, the Philip Smith Estate and the Smith Trust settled with the EPA, making a cash payment to avoid being sued or any paying further costs. In 2015, the Estate of Sarah Moran, Albert Moran’s widow, and Moran’s beneficiaries, formed Persimmon Lane LLC, a limited liability company, which now owns the landfill property.

The United States’ Attorneys Office, on behalf of the EPA, looked into the finances of Persimmon Lane and of Moran’s estate and found they had limited ability to cover the cost of cleanup.

Persimmon Lane has now reached a settlement with the EPA, filed in federal court in Richmond and announced May 3, to help fund the cleanup of the site. Persimmon Lane must make good faith efforts to generate proceeds from the transfer of the property for potential development or wetlands mitigation credits, which can be used by purchasers to compensate for the impact of lost wetlands on other locations. Persimmon Lane must then pay a portion of those proceeds to EPA and Virginia to cover cleanup costs.

The EPA is drafting a report on options for remediation at the site.

“EPA expects to make a make a final remedial decision in 2018 after a proposed remedy is presented to the public and offered for public comment,” Seneca said. He added that the costs of those remedial options are still being considered, and the options will be presented to the public in the fall.

“The bottom line is, we won’t know the scope of the options or the potential costs of the options until the feasibility study is complete,” said Alan Brewer, assistant director of the Loudoun Department of General Services.

The state and federal governments will be reimbursed on a sliding scale based on the sale price of the land. If it sells for less than $156,122, all the proceeds go to the state. If the price is between that and $3 million, 30 percent goes to Persimmon Lane, 52.5 percent to the EPA, and 17.5 percent to the state. The 150-acre parcel is currently assessed at $13,600 in county land records.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

Hidden Lane Landfill [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]

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