From Landfill to Landmark: Leesburg Council Contemplates $16.9M Remediation of Historic Site

Leesburg, VA (October 24, 2023) – Tensions were palpable in the council chamber in Leesburg on Monday evening as members of the Town Council grappled with the complex findings of a critical environmental study, casting uncertainty over the future of the Liberty Street Parking lot—a local landmark with a contentious past. The parking expanse, known to older residents as the former municipal landfill site from a bygone era, has recently been under environmental scrutiny. WSP USA Environment & Infrastructure Inc., a prominent player in environmental and infrastructure studies, spent months between April and August 2023 unearthing uncomfortable truths beneath the surface of this everyday convenience.

Council members shifted in their seats as experts recounted how the comprehensive study, including advanced geophysical testing, strategic drilling, and meticulous soil sampling, revealed remnants of the site’s past, buried up to 22 feet below. The hidden legacy, amounting to approximately 35,000 cubic yards of refuse material, presents a significant challenge, with a notable portion categorized as hazardous due to concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons, lead, cadmium, and more. “The reality check here is that much of this refuse wouldn’t even qualify for disposal at our own Loudoun County Landfill,” commented a council member, highlighting the grave environmental responsibility the Town now faces.

With redevelopment dreams on the horizon, the council confronted a pivotal decision: what should become of the Liberty Street site? The implications of this choice are far-reaching, particularly concerning potential remediation efforts. A beacon of hope emerged through the Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP), administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. This initiative could offer the Town a lifeline, providing a structured route towards state-approved remediation and shielding the Town and future site proprietors from looming liability issues. Yet, the road to environmental redemption comes with a hefty price tag—an eye-watering estimated $16.9 million for a thorough cleanse of the site’s historical burdens. This figure encapsulates an array of expenses, from intricate design plans and permits to the physical labor of waste disposal and management.

Vice Mayor Neil Steinberg reflected the council’s sentiment, expressing shock at the figures and a reluctant optimism. “This price tag is a hard pill to swallow. However, we owe it to our residents and future generations to explore all avenues. This site is more than a parking lot; it’s a part of Leesburg’s heritage with the potential to serve a broader purpose.” Determined not to let the conversation stall amidst fiscal fears, the Town Council displayed a united front in their commitment to continuing deliberations about the site’s destiny. While decisions remain on the horizon, no conclusive action was taken on the night, leaving residents and council members alike pondering the environmental and historical footprint we leave would be less than the full $16.9 million estimate.


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