Fill and Waste - Disposal of Asphalt Pavement




Evaluate the purpose and consequences of allowing asphalt pavement to be placed in fill.  




Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, and Ms. McCulley






June 4, 2008


ACTION:     X                                INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                                    INFORMATION:   











At its April 2, 2008 meeting, the Board directed staff to bring back information on the pros and cons of continuing to allow asphalt pavement to be used as fill material, with an emphasis on the environmental factors.   This practice is currently allowed under the Zoning Ordinance as a result of a July 3, 2002 text amendment approved by a 4-0 vote. (ZTA 2001-006) This vote was preceded by a June 5, 2002 public hearing.  A review of the Board minutes for the June 5th meeting indicates this was a controversial amendment and there was significant opposition to additional regulation of fill material and operation.  That opposition was evidenced by petitions and the remarks of several speakers.  In balancing those concerns, the Board considered the lack of evidence of environmental harm and the likelihood of illegal dumping.           




Goal 2. Protect the County's Natural Resources

Goal 4. Effectively Manage Growth and Development




In responding to the Board’s April 2, 2008 directive, staff reviewed the rationale for supporting the use of asphalt pavement as fill material in 2002.  Attachments A and B are 2002 memos supporting that recommendation.  After reviewing these memos, staff focused their evaluation on a search for any new information that would alter the prior recommendation.  Based on that analysis, staff believes the current regulation allowing the burial of asphalt is still appropriate.   The following points were considered in this analysis. 


1.                   Minimal Environmental Hazard – A review of the literature indicates that asphalt pavement is not considered an environmental hazard.   To illustrate, staff found asphalt pavement is still used for lining water supply reservoirs and fish hatcheries.  Staff also notes that neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has prohibited the use of asphalt pavement as fill.  Additionally, asphalt pavement used for fill is typically older material, where the more volatile compounds have long since either degraded or washed away.  The fact that asphalt pavement continues to be routinely used for roads, parking lots and driveways without state or federal regulation strongly suggests there is an insignificant environmental risk.    

2.                   Complaints – The County has no complaints of buried asphalt pavement when used in permitted fill operations since this regulation was adopted in 2002.  While there have been several complaints about illegal dumping that included asphalt pavement, staff believe those concerns have been focused on the illegal dumping rather than the material.

3.                   Consistency with other localities - Based on a review of ordinances in other counties and contact with staff in those localities, no county was identified that expressly prohibits asphalt pavement being used as fill material.  This review included the following counties: Augusta, Bedford, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Henrico, Isle of Wight, Louisa, Montgomery, Prince William, New Kent, Orange, Roanoke, Rockingham, and Stafford. 

4.                   Recycling -  Staff notes the potential for recycling is improving and milling of asphalt pavement for reuse has become common with larger paving operations.  However, it appears this can still prove economically challenging for small sites.  In speaking with the local asphalt pavement producers, staff found they routinely recycle asphalt pavement from their own projects but do not accept materials from others.  That restriction is based on past problems with contaminated materials, but they are interested in recycling clean material. This appears to leave two options for enhanced recycling. The County can wait until economic interests create an incentive for a private business to establish an asphalt pavement recycling operation or the County could subsidize the creation of this operation.  With the former, staff believes it is premature to amend the ordinance until that business is established.  With the latter, the County’s solid waste agreement would require this material to be delivered to the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority (RSWA).  RSWA could establish a milling operation at its Ivy facility and sell this material for either recycled asphalt pavement or use as road base material if the material was unacceptable for pavement. This would be similar to the service currently provided with vegetative debris such as tree stumps.  RSWA’s startup costs for this operation would be passed to the County and the County would also be responsible for any operational deficits.  A business plan would be needed to accurately estimate these costs but staff estimates the startup costs would likely be in excess of $100,000.  It should be noted that if RSWA starts this operation with a County subsidy, it may preempt the market from developing a private solution.              

5.                   Incentives for illegal disposal  -  Disposal of asphalt pavement becomes increasingly expensive if not allowed to be used on site and recycling options are not viable.  To illustrate the complexity of this issue, staff compares this with tree stumps, which are an ongoing issue.  Under state and federal law, tree stumps from construction sites may not be buried outside of a regulated landfill as this creates an environmental hazard.   If the construction site is too small to economically justify establishing a burn pit or grinding operation, the stumps are supposed to be hauled to the RSWA Ivy facility for legal disposal. As discussed with recycling asphalt pavement, RSWA currently recycles tree stumps into mulch, though this requires the County partially to subsidize this operation.  Despite this requirement and the County subsidy, staff continues to find situations where tree stumps have been buried on the construction site or dumped on properties in the Rural Areas.  The cost-benefit of having a violation discovered versus potential savings continues to create an incentive for illegal disposal.  Staff anticipates the same situation for asphalt pavement should it be prohibited from fill.   




No budget impact is anticipated if the current ordinance is not amended.  If the ordinance is amended to make it illegal to use asphalt pavement for fill, there may be some additional County expense for inspections and Code enforcement. If the County were to ask RSWA to establish a pavement recycling program, there are both startup costs and ongoing operations costs that will be the County’s responsibility.      




Staff recommends that the Board not amend the current regulations that allow the burial of asphalt pavement and that it direct staff to promote the recycling of asphalt pavement whenever possible.  




Attachment A – Memo of May 14, 2002, Asphalt Pavements in Fill

Attachment B – Memo of June 19, 2002, Review of Issues

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