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Hampton Rds. Sanitation Dist. v. Va. Dep't Of Envtl. Quality

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20079
Nos. 0979-16-1, (Va. Ct. App., 06/06/2017)

A Virginia appeals court held that ash from incineration of biosolids at a wastewater treatment plant cannot be used to raise the ground level of a flood-prone agricultural field. In 2008, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) began using the ash to raise the ground level of flood-prone fields. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) learned of its use after a neighbor of a farm using the ash complained of the dust. Fearing that the metals in the ash would compromise the groundwater and harm wildlife, DEQ decided that use of the ash was not a "beneficial use" under the state hazardous waste statute. HRSD sued DEQ, stating that the ash qualified as an "effective substitute for a natural resource" under the statute, and that DEQ acted arbitrarily in denying its use. The appeals court sided with DEQ and the trial court, holding that the agency did not act arbitrarily as it is charged with protecting the safety of the environment and its inhabitants. DEQ's consideration of the possible harmful effects of the ash was not an abuse of delegated discretion. The judgment was affirmed.