Loudoun County government and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have endorsed a new plan to protect residents near the Hidden Lane landfill from contaminants in their well water supply by extending public water lines to the neighborhood.
In 2005, the Loudoun County Health department found evidence of the common degreaser trichloroethylene, or TCE, in the groundwater and well water of homes around the former Hidden Lane landfill between Broad Run Farms and CountrySide north of Rt. 7. In total, 36 homes were found to have contaminated well water. Those homes were equipped with water filtration.
The landfill operated from 1971 until 1984, when county regulators and courts shut it down because of groundwater contamination and because the county had never approved the landfill.
On Thursday, the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to endorse an EPA-recommended plan for the site which includes extending public water service to the homes in the area, at an estimated cost of $6.7 million, and implementing rules to prohibit drawing groundwater in the future.
“There’s some folks that have seen this literally their whole lives, and to finally get to the point where we’re going to have a record of decision and then some action to improve the situation is truly a milestone,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian).
The EPA found the plan was “implementable, offers a high degree of public protectiveness, is the most effective and permanent alternative, is preferred by the State, and is believed to be preferred by a majority of impacted residents as well as local officials.”
The landfill has 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 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. In 2008, a 150-acre area including the landfill site was added to EPA’s Superfund list of the nation’s most contaminated sites. A plume of TCE-contaminated groundwater reaches under the Broad Run Farm neighborhood to the west.
But little changed on the site after that until recently.
Last May, an agreement filed in Federal District Court created a mechanism for the landowners to repay the cost of the cleanup, and could set the stage for the eventual development of the land.
The landfill’s original owners have since died—Moran 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 owns the property.
The United States’ Attorneys Office looked into the finances of Persimmon Lane and of Moran’s estate and found it had limited ability to cover the cost of cleanup.
Persimmon Lane reached a settlement with the EPA to help fund the cleanup of the site, in which 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 the EPA and Virginia to cover cleanup costs.
The state and federal governments will bear the cost of cleanup, and 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.
The federal government is responsible for 90 percent of the cleanup cost, and the state 10 percent.
The EPA’s comment period on the proposed plan is open until June 18. To view the full plan, go to go.usa.gov/xQTfb, and send comments to Remedial Project Manager Bruce Rundell at firstname.lastname@example.org.