Battle Creek earns Governor’s award and expects $3 million profit next fiscal year

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This view looks down on the Battle Creek Landfill at the foot of the Massanutten Mountain and the George Washington National Forest.

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, April 6 — Nearly two decades ago, the late Luray caricature artist Bob Volten sketched a cartoon published in the local paper that portrayed a young boy being caught writing a “dirty word” on a wall — that word was “Battle Creek Landfill.”

At the turn of the millennium (and for several years after), Page County’s landfill carried a negative connotation among local residents due to a poorly written contract with an independent operator, financial losses that couldn’t be overcome (due to the contract), garbage haulers losing their loads on both bordering mountains and spilling trash into the Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest, and an increase in its daily intake of waste up to 1,500 tons helping make Virginia the No.2 importer of trash in the country at that time behind Pennsylvania.

In the first few years after the opening of Battle Creek Landfill in 1999, millions of tax dollars were wasted due to a contract that couldn’t be fulfilled, and millions more were spent to get out of that contract in 2005.

That was then, and this is now.

Not only did the Battle Creek Landfill recently win a Bronze among the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards presented last month, but the solid waste facility is projected to generate a $3 million profit during FY2022.

“I am so proud of the staff at the landfill and how far they have come in the last few years,” County Administrator Amity Moler said on Monday.

Moler plans to recognize the landfill staff during tonight’s Page County Board of Supervisors’ work session.

During the 31st Environmental Virginia Symposium held virtually from the campus of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington March 23-25, a total of two gold, three silver and four bronze awards were presented for environmental excellence. Among the winners were Freddie Mac, Luck Stone, Sky Meadows State Park, Harrisonburg Public Works, the NASA Space Flight Center…and the Battle Creek Landfill.

“I was really shocked,” Page County’s Solid Waste Operations Manager Jeff Blevins said on Monday. “We’re in the same class as NASA…at least in terms of recycling.”

Battle Creek has received previous awards from the Virginia Recycling Association and the Virginia Association of Counties, but nothing as big as the honor they received in late March.

“I am very proud of our staff…it took a lot of work to get where we are,” Blevins said. “It’s one thing to come up with an idea; it’s another to put in the work to make it happen.”

In early December, Page County submitted its application for the award showing how they had increased its recycling efficiency and profitability by baling recyclables together to create bigger loads, rather than hauling smaller loads to facilities in Shenandoah County, Harrisonburg or elsewhere that would pay for them. The new process has greatly reduced hauling expenses for the county, and now haulers are coming to them to pickup the large bales of recyclables.

By keeping the process more “in house” and creating a “cleaner product”, Blevins says the recycling program has become profitable, earning about $52,000 last year, while the volume has remained roughly the same. When the county was still hauling its own recyclable material to buyers, the program was “barely breaking even,” according to the landfill manager.

Another reason why the landfill’s finances have turned around is due to high volume or long-term contracts for waste disposal that, while increasing the daily tonnage, has increased efficiency and lowers overall costs due to economies of scale. Now, the county is looking to increase its daily tonnage limit at the landfill with a major permit amendment through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in order to accommodate a new contract.

Page County has submitted an application with DEQ to increase the daily tonnage at the Battle Creek Landfill from its current 350 tons per day limit, to 850 tons per day. At its height in the early 2000s, Battle Creek was bringing in up to 1,500 tons per day.

The public comment period on the landfill’s application to increase its daily tonnage began March 24 and runs through April 23. All comments on the application and requests for a public hearing must be in writing and include the commenter’s name, mailing address and phone number. According to a public notice published March 25, a request for public hearing should also include:

• The reason why a public hearing is requested.

• A brief informal statement regarding the nature and extent of the interest of the requester, including how and to what extent such interest would be directly and adversely affected by the permit.

• Specific references, where possible, to terms and conditions of the permit with suggested revisions.

After allowing the one-month written comment period, DEQ is not required to hold a public hearing on the permit application, but may choose to do so if “public response is significant” and “there are substantial disputed issues relevant to the permit.”

The public may view or obtain the draft permit by contacting the DEQ office for an appointment. An appointment is required due to COVID-19 public health and safety concerns, according to the public notice. The DEQ contact for this permit application is listed as:

JengHwa Lyang, Solid Waste Permit Writer, Valley Regional Office – Virginia DEQ, 4411 Early Road, P.O. Box 3000, Harrisonburg, Va. 22801; phone (540) 574-7826; fax (804) 698-4178; email

The county wants to amend its permit application in order to enter a three-year agreement with a Manassas Park-based waste disposal company called Patriot. The new private company came to the county back in December to seek tentative approval of a waste disposal agreement, contingent upon the county increasing its daily tonnage limit and the company getting permits to build a waste transfer station in Manassas Park. According to Blevins, Patriot has broken ground and begun construction.

Once the $21-per-ton agreement goes into affect with Patriot — anticipated in either July or August — county residents will once again enjoy free dumping with no tipping fees for bulk items. When Battle Creek entered a waste disposal agreement with Rappahannock County on July 1, 2020, the tipping fee rate for bulk items brought in by county residents dropped from $60 per ton to $30 per ton. When the Patriot contract begins, that fee on local residents will be waived. That fee only applies to bulk items. County residents have never been charged for normal household waste. The new revenue streams, according to county officials, will enable the landfill to provide waste disposal for free to all citizens.

The profits earned from the Patriot contract will also be earmarked for the construction of the next cell at the Battle Creek Landfill, according to the county administrator. The engineering and planning for that new cell will begin during the next fiscal year.

In order to extend the life of the landfill and enjoy other savings, the county purchased 221 acres adjacent to the landfill at a cost of $660,000 in the last year that will serve several purposes. Not only will the additional land potentially allow for expansion in the future, but it will also give the county a place to put dirt when it opens a new cell. When the last cell was constructed at Battle Creek, the county paid $1 million just to dump dirt on adjacent land, which proved to be cheaper than trucking it elsewhere, according to Moler.

So from losing money to making money, and from drawing constant criticism to earning awards, the Battle Creek Landfill has come a long way in the last two decades, and to some, it’s no longer a “dirty word.”



Page approves 10-year trash contract with Rappahannock

Rappahannock trash contract should reduce costs at landfill

Rappahannock approves 10-year deal to dump trash at Battle Creek Landfill

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