Landfill for Sale: Probable Source of TCE

Landfill for Sale: Probable Source of TCE

Developer Has Contract on Landfill.

For sale: 148 acres between Broad Run Farms and Countryside. "Many acres of parkland for horseback, walks, bike paths, gardens." List Price: $2.5 million.

One caveat: About 35 of those acres are the site of the Hidden Lane Landfill. Officials have identified it as the probable source of trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogen that has contaminated 22 wells in the Broad Run Farms community.

A developer put a contract on the property in February, the same month that the Loudoun Department of Health started testing wells to see if they contained TCE. The real estate listing also describes the landfill as "cleared by the EPA." The Environmental Protection Agency put the property on the Superfund list in 1988 after receiving a complaint about a chemical waste at the site. It was removed from the list in 2003, because information available at the time did not demonstrate a significant potential for hazardous waste, Office of Solid Waste records show.

At the urging of county and state officials, Broad Run Farms residents are now gathering signatures to petition the EPA to take a second look. They want the federal agency to designate it as a Superfund, so the EPA will do the clean up and go after the people or business responsible for the contamination for payment. The landfill is owned by Philip Smith and the estate of Albert Moran. Smith has been convalescing in Florida, but recently returned to Virginia.

THE LANDFILL OPERATED without a county permit from 1971 to 1984, and repeatedly violated restrictions on what was allowed to be dumped at the site, Office of Waste Management records show. County and state officials say they cannot identify everything that was placed in the ground.

Bruce Tulloch, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said a developer had a contract on the property, with plans to build a housing development. He said he understood why the developer had backed off on the project after learning about the TCE contamination. "Anybody that would consider buying that landfill should get an examination from the neck up," he said.

Don Tobias of Tobias Realty, however, said Monday that the property is still under contract. Neither Tulloch nor Tobias would identify the developer.

The potential buyer usually conducts a feasibility study prior to actually buying the acreage, Tobias said. He would not disclose how many houses were planned. No plans have been filed with the county Building and Development or Planning Departments.

This developer often hires a company to conduct the study, which involves a review of zoning, transportation and other issues. The developer has hired Christopher Consultants of Sterling in the past for that purpose. One of the consultants' project managers, however, said Monday that he has not been asked to perform the task.

The real estate listing shows that the property went under contract Feb. 8, 2005 with a "close date" of Feb. 7, 2006.

Tobias confirmed that the property was first listed on May 26, 1999, at the price of $1.9 million. He has been handling the transaction since then.

THE REAL ESTATE activity marks the second time a business has expressed interest in the property. Community Wireless Structures of Falls Church participated in a pre-application conference on Feb. 12, 2002, discussing the installation of a 75-foot by 135-foot monopole, Planning Department records show. The monopole is designed to support multiple service providers. The project also called for an "unmanned equipment shelter." Victor Cenname represented the company at the conference.

A handwritten note addressed to "John" in the file said, "No issues. Well maybe one. … We'll talk Tuesday." John Merrithew, Land Use Review division manager, failed to return phone calls by deadline to identify the issue.

Tam Murray, managing member of Community Wireless Structures, said Monday that the company decided against the project, because "you don't want to build a tower in the flood plain or on the landfill," he said, adding that the majority of the acreage is in the flood plain. "At the time, it seemed like there had been disagreement between the owner and the county about the legality or status of the landfill."

It's difficult enough to get approval for monopoles when the conditions are "non-controversial," he said.

"We just weren't comfortable we could get it approved," he said. "It's an extraordinary piece of property, 148 acres where the typical lot size is a quarter of an acre."

The synopsis of the pre-application conference described the site as an old landfill with the word "illegal" in parenthesis. The monopole would have served six carriers in an area between Route 7 and the Potomac River, with access from McCarty Court. Murray said Community Wireless Structures had planned to lease about a quarter of an acre.

Prior to establishing a landfill, the owners sought permission to rezone the property to build 100 or more single-family houses. The request was denied, because most of the land was in a flood zone, records show.