Historically, solid waste in southeastern Virginia had been handled by the individual localities in accordance with local and state regulations. Each city or county either collected and disposed of waste within its borders or transported the collected waste to a neighboring city for disposal. Commercial and industrial waste was collected by private haulers but disposal was restricted to the community in which it was generated. Many of the communities faced the growing challenge of how to handle their waste effectively.
The local communities had already realized a need for a regional water supply system, so in 1973, they created the Southeastern Water Authority of Virginia, pursuant to the Virginia Water and Sewer Authorities Act. This organization never reached operational status as a water authority and in 1976, by agreement of the local municipalities, became the Southeastern Public Service Authority. Its responsibilities were expanded to include the implementation of a regional solid waste disposal system to include a resource recovery operation, featuring a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Plant and a Power Plant.
At SPSA’s inception, the organization had no staff, no funds and no facilities or equipment. Staff for the regional planning agency, the Southeastern Virginia Planning District Commission, acted as SPSA staff until 1978 when a full time staff was employed. Initial funding was provided by $3,000,000 of bond anticipation notes secured by four local communities.
During 1978 and 1979, design was initiated on the RDF and Power Plants. From 1979 to 1984, 30-year contracts with all eight communities were executed providing for them to deliver 95 percent of their waste to SPSA and to pay the established fees. Also during this period, the Navy, with SPSA’s help, obtained a $160 million congressional appropriation to acquire and operate the Power Plant. Additionally, transfer station sites were selected, design completed and construction started. In 1982, a 300 acre landfill site was acquired in a rural section of the city of Suffolk and construction was completed in 1985. In 1985, the Regional Landfill and the Norfolk, Chesapeake, Franklin and Portsmouth Transfer Stations became operational. The Portsmouth Transfer Station was closed in 1987 when the RDF Plant was completed.
During 1986 and 1987, additional transfer stations were opened in Southampton and Isle of Wight and the Oceana Transfer Station was acquired from the city of Virginia Beach. Construction was completed in 1987 on the RDF and Power Plants and operation of the resource recovery system began in 1988. In mid-1990 SPSA assumed operation and maintenance responsibility for the Power Plant.
During the time facilities were being constructed, operating and administrative staff were employed. Heavy equipment for the landfill and transfer stations and transfer vehicles were acquired. Funding was provided by bond issues of $26 million and $107.8 million in 1984 and $20 million in 1985.
In 1995, SPSA adopted a Vision, Mission and Values statement to give the agency a direction and a plan to continue serving the communities of southeastern Virginia into the future.Through cutbacks in or elimination of programs, reductions in its employee base, the commitment of the 8 communities which make up SPSA to support financial reorganization, working with the various lending institutions to which the organization owed money and the sale of SPSA’s largest asset, the waste to energy facilities in Portsmouth to Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc., for $150 million to pay down debt, SPSA rose from being on the edge of insolvency to an organization with substantial cash reserve and capable of a very bright future.
Effective with the sale of the waste to energy facilities, the Authority entered into a Service Agreement with Wheelabrator Portsmouth Inc. (formerly Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.) for solid waste disposal services through January 24, 2018. In October 2017, the Authority approved an Addendum 6 to the Service Agreement with Wheelabrator Portsmouth extending the term through January 31, 2019 (with an additional option by SPSA to extend through June 30, 2019.)
The original Use and Support Agreements with the member jurisdictions were expected to expire in January 2018. A Post 2018 Technical Committee was formed comprised of employees from each of the eight member jurisdictions, SPSA staff and staff of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. As a result of the meetings, the eight member jurisdictions have each adopted a resolution supporting the continued operation of SPSA post 2018 based on certain principles.
In the fall of 2014, a Use and Support Agreement Committee was formed consisting of 4 members of the Authority’s Board of Directors tasked with drafting a new Use and Support Agreement in consultation with the Authority’s Executive Staff and legal counsel. Following several meetings and receiving of comments from each of the member jurisdictions a final form Use & Support Agreement was adopted by the Board of Directors in May 2016 and subsequently executed by all member localities. The initial term of such new Use & Support Agreements is June 30, 2027.
In order to insure long term waste disposal capacity for the Authority’s members, a Good Neighbor and Host Agreement was executed with the City of Suffolk whereby certain rights and responsibilities are defined for both parties. In particular, the Authority applied for a new conditional use permit (CUP) for Cell VII at the landfill as well as requesting the rezoning of the remaining parcel. In turn, the Authority has agreed to pay the City of Suffolk a host fee of $4 per ton for waste disposed in the landfill beginning January 25, 2018. In August 2017, the City of Suffolk approved the CUP and rezoning of the remaining parcel.