Thursday, March 28, 2019

Big Changes in Curbside Recycling for Prince William County

This week Prince William County published a new list of required and acceptable recyclables.


  • Plastics bottles and jugs: #1 and #2 narrow neck and wide mouth containers including soda and water bottles and juice and milk jugs. Rinse out containers. Bottle caps may be replaced after rinsing. No bottles that previously contained hazardous materials (such as oil, flammable materials, chemicals, etc.). 
  • Aluminum and steel food and beverage cans and empty aerosol cans. Empty and rinse out cans. 
  • Newspaper and mixed paper (any paper that tears) white/colored paper, magazines, catalogs, books, junk mail (even envelopes with clear windows) and paperboard boxes (e.g. cereal tissue etc.), paper towel and toilet tissue cores. Do not include plastic bags included in newspapers. 
  • Flattened cardboard and paperboard up to 2 ft. X 2 ft. in size. Do not include cardboard with food residue or plastic liners. 
In Prince William County  glass should no longer be put in recycling. The one bin recycle system has failed and we have failed at learning how to recycle. We did not realize the extent of the issues until 2017 when China, the largest market that accepted recycled products from the United States, imposed restrictions on plastic and paper waste, specifically excluding glass which contaminates the plastic and paper. China's actions prompted other countries to change their requirements, as well. Now that China and India will no longer take our mixed recycles waste, we need to change our recycle system and our behaviors.

These changes are impacting us in Prince William County. Years ago when I toured the Prince William Landfill I was amazed to learn that we had been sending bales of mixed recyclables to China. The tour included a warehouse filled with bales of recycled material. According to Tom Smith, the director of Prince William Public Works Solid Waste Division, our recycling processing plant is having to find other buyers for the recyclable materials, and recycling processes have slowed due to the higher quality standards demanded.

The first change is that glass cannot remain part of the curbside single-stream recycling. Glass that is collected that way often breaks as it moves through the recycling process. There are no facilities in the region to clean and process glass, much of it ends up in the landfill and glass shards often contaminate other recyclable materials and make them impossible to reuse. No one will take glass contaminated waste.

PW Public Works Solid Waste division is looking at alternatives for recycling glass. They are eliminating glass from curbside collection, but plan to install separate bins for glass at the landfill and Balls Ford Road compost facility. The plan is to take that glass to a local glass crushing facility to eventually be used in construction projects as a replacement for pea gravel.

All our neighboring jurisdictions are struggling with similar recycling challenges. The Prince William County Public Works Department is working with its regional counterparts, along with private trash and recycling companies to try and find ways to manage issues impacting recycling programs throughout the region. However, to solve this problem we need to change our behavior and reduce or eliminate the single use disposable products in our lives to lighten the load.

In addition, we need to stop what the County calls “aspirational recycling.” That is including in the recycling bin items that should not be included, items contaminated with food waste, plastic bags and others. Though, the “aspirational recyclers” are well intentioned, they are just contaminating the recycling stream and the entire truck load end up at the landfill. All solutions begin with us; we need to get better at recycling. Commit to improving your recycle knowledge and practices. In the meanwhile here are some ways to improve your recycling.

The items below are not recyclable and should not be in your recycle bin:
  • Glass- can no longer be recycled in Prince William County
  • Wax coated cups (including coffee and soda cups etc.)
  • Styrofoam in any form
  • Coated food containers (milk cartons and other coated cardboard)
  • Cardboard containers soaked with food
  • Plastic pimp caps
  • Heat treated glass (Pyrex, baking dishes, wine glasses)
  • Anything soiled especially Diapers
  • Clothing
  • Low-grade plastic numbered 3-7 (yogurt containers, toothpaste tubes, margarine and butter tubs, cottage cheese containers, sour cream containers, vegetable and salad containers and bags.
  • Any item with food or beverage contamination. Wash everything!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Is Tornado Risk Increasing ?

Last week the Commonwealth of Virgina had a statewide Tornado Drill. According to Tim Keen, acting Chief of Prince William Fire and Rescue, “Tornadoes can happen anytime, anywhere in Virginia, they don’t have a season. Knowing what to do during a tornado warning can save your life.”

My HOA did not participate in the drill, but you can make preparations on your own. Being prepared for an emergency is a good thing. So:
You can get emergency alerts sent to your email from your county or just by enabling weather alerts on your phone. If a tornado watch has been called (and an alert appears on your phone, scrolls across your TV, you receive an email or it is announced on the radio) it means that tornadoes are possible in the area and this is your chance to get ready. Hopefully, you already have and emergency plan, and storm supplies in your Emergency Kit (like a radio, flashlight and water) and are ready to act quickly if a tornado forms in your area.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted by weather radar and you should act immediately to seek shelter. If you are in a house, go to the lowest level such as a basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to an interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom. Try to protect your head from flying debris or broken glass-blankets, bicycle helmets. Do not take refuge in a mobile home. If you are in a mobile home, you should leave immediately and seek shelter elsewhere. If you are outside and cannot get to shelter, crouch beside a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area and try to cover your head and neck. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can. A car is not safe in a tornado and parking a car under an overpass is not effective protection.

Though tornadoes occur all over the Earth, some parts of the world are much more prone to tornadoes than others. Globally, the middle latitudes (that would be us), provide the most favorable environment for the creation of tornadoes because this is where cold, polar air meets warmer, subtropical air, generating precipitation along the air mass collisions. In addition, air in these mid-latitudes often flows at different speeds and directions at different heights conducive to creation of rotation within the storm.

Tornadoes have been documented in every state of the United States, and in terms of absolute count, the United States leads the world, with an average over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year. A distant second is Canada, with around 100 per year. Severe thunderstorms accompanied by tornadoes, hail, and winds cause an average of 5.4 billion dollars of damage each year across the United States.

In the United States, there are two regions that have historically had a disproportionately high frequency of tornadoes. Florida and the southeast is one and "Tornado Alley" in the Great Plains of the U.S. is the other. Florida and the southeast have numerous tornadoes simply due to the high frequency of almost daily thunderstorms. However, despite the violent nature of a tropical storm or hurricane, the tornadoes they create tended to be weaker than those produced by non-tropical thunderstorms.

Climate scientists have wondered if the frequency and location of tornados has been changing with increased temperatures. A recent paper; “Spatial trends in United States tornado frequency” by Vittorio A. Gensini of Northern Illinois University and Harold E. Brooks ?has looked into the possibility that tornado frequencies are changing across the United States. Their study built on the work of others, notably Farney& Dixon “Variability of tornado climatology across the continental United States” . Int. J. Climatol. 35, 2993–3006 (2015) and Agee, Larson, Childs & Marmo, A. Spatial redistribution of US Tornado activity between 1954 and 2013. J. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol. 55, 1681–1697 (2016).

The scientists found that the national annual frequencies of tornado reports have remained relatively constant, but they found that location of tornado occurrence may be changing. The scientists findings indicate a decrease in the traditional "Tornado Alley" of the Great Plains and an increase in the Southeast's . The scientist have also found a shift in the timing of tornado season, but were unsure if this was due to rising global temperatures or natural variability. 
STP frequency
One of the main difficulties with tornado records is that a tornado, or evidence of a tornado must have been observed. If a tornado occurs in a place with few or no people, it is not likely to be documented. Much of what we know as tornado alley of the central plains was very sparsely populated until the 20th century, and so the historical record before 1950 may not be accurate.

Despite improvements in records detecting spatial shifts in tornado frequency has proved challenging given the small areas and duration of tornado-producing thunderstorms and deficiencies in tornado reporting database. So the scientists used a proxy for tornadoes, the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP) to substitute for tornado frequency. STP is designed to identify and track atmospheric ingredients large storms capable of producing EF2-EF5 tornadoes. However, even if the right winds, moisture, and instability are present, thunderstorms and tornadoes won't form without a strong enough trigger to spark them. The STP does not account for whether or not a trigger is present, and no research has been done to examine the co-variant relationship of tornadoes occurrence location with STP. In addition, the time frame of the study was just a few years, so we are not sure how robust their findings are.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Still Time to Register for the Prince William County 2019 Well Water Clinic

Do you know what's in your well? There is still time to register for the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Office will be holding its annual drinking water clinic in Prince William County on March 25th 2019. To avoid long lines and having too many people show up on the day of the clinic, this year we ask that you register (and if you can prepay) before the clinic. There are still sample kits available and they cost $55 each. Pre-payment can be made in person at the VCE office at 8033 Ashton Avenue, Suite 105, Manassas VA 20109 or mailed to the VCE.
Make checks out to “Treasurer, Virginia Tech”. To register for this class, or to ask questions about the program, please call 703-792-7747 or

The Prince William Drinking Water Clinic has 3 parts:
1. The Kick-Off Meeting on March 25th from 7-8:30 pm at PWC Board Chambers in the McCoart Building, 1 County Complex, Woodbridge, VA 22192 introduces water quality concerns in our area and hands out the water sampling kits.

2. The Sample Drop Off on March 27th from 6:30am-10am ONLY at the VCE Office, 8033 Ashton Ave., Manassas 20109

3. The Results Interpretation Meeting on May 10th from 7-9 pm at PWC Board Chambers in the McCoart Building, 1 County Complex, Woodbridge, VA 22192 will explain the report, include a discussion and answer questions on dealing with water problems.

Water Samples must be dropped off on Wednesday March 29, between the hours of 6:30am and 10am at the VCE - Prince William Office, 8033 Ashton, Suite 105, Manassas, 20109. THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS for sample drop off. However, if you are unable to attend the kick off or results meetings arrangements can be made to pick up a test kit or your results
at another time, please call 703-792-7747 or for assistance.

The samples will be analyzed for 14 chemical and bacteriological contaminants at the laboratory at Virginia Tech. Comparable analysis at a private commercial lab would cost $150-$200. Samples will be analyzed for: iron, manganese, nitrate, lead, arsenic, fluoride, sulfate, pH, total dissolved solids, hardness, sodium, copper, total coliform bacteria and E. Coli bacteria.

Participants will receive their confidential water test results. A presentation will be given that shows the findings for the county and explains what the numbers on the test report mean and what possible options participants may consider to deal with any water problems. Experts will be on hand to answer any specific questions you may have about your water and water system. I will be one of volunteers present to help with the program. Come join us.

Just because your water appears clear doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to drink. All drinking water wells should be tested at least annually for at least Coliform bacteria and E Coli. Testing is the only way to detect contamination in your water. Testing is not mandatory, but should be done to ensure your family’s safety. Maintenance and ensuring that water is safe to drink is the responsibility of the owner. If there is a pregnant woman or infant in the home the water should be tested. If there is any change in the taste, appearance, odor of water or your system is serviced or repaired then water should be tested to confirm that no contaminants were introduced.

Most of the water quality issues with private wells are from naturally occurring contamination or impurities. While many natural contaminants such as iron, sulfate, and manganese are not considered serious health hazards, they can give drinking water an unpleasant taste, odor, or color and be annoying and persistent problems and EPA has established secondary standards that can be used as guidance. Excessive levels of sodium, total dissolved solids, harness, can be an annoyance and impact appliances. Several of the naturally occurring contaminants that commonly appear in well water are primary contaminants under the Safe Drinking Water Act and can be a health hazard- nitrate, lead, arsenic, floride, and copper. The VCE Drinking Water Clinic will test for these. Below is what we found last year. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Upper Occoquan River Cleanup

Spring is here and it’s time for the annual river clean ups. On Saturday, April 20, 2019 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (rain date April 27, 2019), is the 10th annual clean-up of the upper Occoquan River, from nine different sites along 25+ miles of the Occoquan River. The clean-up ranges from Cedar Run/Broad Run, through Lake Jackson, and from the base of Lake Jackson Dam to Hooes Run (south of Lake Ridge Marina). This cleanup is part of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s ( Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.

This massive collection of trash from the Occoquan River happens every year and on the river is the combined effort of the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, Trash Free Potomac Watershed, Penguin Paddling, Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department and the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District (where I volunteer as a director.) Come on out and help our community. Trash bags, gloves, water and refreshments will be provided to all participants. This is a true on the river cleanup and is done primarily by boat – volunteers with canoes, kayaks or jon boats are needed. The signup has all the launch and take-out locations.

Experienced kayakers, canoeists, jon boaters, and pontoon boaters are needed. To sign up for this major on-the-water conservation effort. Some kayaks and canoes will be available for loan provided by Penguin Paddling (at Hooes Run) and the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department (at Lake Ridge Marina). As in previous years, the cleanup will be staged from multiple sites along the river, from the canoe/kayak launch area below Lake Jackson dam, down to Lake Ridge / Hooes Run. If you are not a boater, you might want to join another of the cleanups that are happening practically every spring weekend.

Please visit for more information and to register for this event or contact Bill McCarty at or Veronica Tangiri at (571-379-7514)

These cleanups and is part of the 30th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup coordinated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation working with the region’s soil and water conservation districts, community groups, employers, and schools happens this time of year throughout the region. The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is the largest regional event of its kind so that you or your group can still participate this year. It is a great single day volunteer opportunity.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to hold these river cleanups annually. Year after year volunteers clean our roadways, streams, rivers, and streambeds of trash that started as litter and carried along by stormwater and wind into our waterways and parks. We also remove items that were illegally dumped in the woods or carried by off by storms. This year there is more trash than usual. The rain that soaked the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed during the past year, flushed huge volumes of debris off the landscape. Almost 6 times the normal amount of trash and debris was collected at the Conowingo dam, ranging from beverage containers to floating docks.

On March 2nd over 140 volunteers collected 5,100 lbs of trash including 22 tires during the Neabsco Eagles Park cleanup. All this trash was stopped from entering the Potomac River thanks to the over 140 volunteers that included Troop 138 and 501, Pack 1556 and 1515, Hylton High School students, and Sev1Tech volunteers.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Back to a D+

from CBF

In January the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) released their bi-annual State of the Bay health index score. The health of the Bay has decreased by one percent bringing us to D+ from the C- the Bay received in 2016. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the drop was largely due to increased runoff associated with the record breaking regional rainfall that carried nutrients and soil into the rivers despite the work that has been done to prevent that.

The 2018 State of the Bay Report scores the health of the bay at 33 out of 100, a D+ according to their scoring system which measures the current state of the Bay against the unspoiled Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation would rate a 100 on their scale. That was a time when this region was 95% old growth forests and sparsely populated.

The current goals of all the Environmental Protection Agency mandated “Clean Water Blueprint” is a grade of 40, by 2025. The Clean Water Plan is a euphemism for the enforceable pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay (the Bay TMDL) mandated by the EPA to the six Bay states and the District of Columbia. Each of the jurisdictions created a plan (approved by the EPA) called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs, to meet those limits by 2025. The states agreed to have the 60% of the needed programs and practices in place by 2017, and to complete the job by 2025.
only part of the report card from CFB

Of the primary Bay states, Virginia and Maryland were close to meeting the 2017 goals but need to accelerate pollution reduction from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. Washington DC and West Virginia had met their goals. During the last legislative session the Virginia legislature approved a bi-annual budget that contained funding for implementation of pollution reduction practices for agriculture land and limited funds for urban/suburban runoff reduction. The budget:
  • Maintains current levels of operational funding for the 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts at $7,291,091 each year.
  • The mandatory deposit to the Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF) of the FY19 year-end surplus of $72,800,000.
Unfortunately, this is $35,031,151 less than originally proposed by the governor. That money was intended to finish the remaining SL-6 (stream exclusion fencing) backlog, jump start Watershed Implementation Plan III (WIP3) to achieve the 2025 pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay ahead of schedule. There is always more money wanted than is available.

The Bay’s health will always be influenced by weather. Unfortunately, most climate change models suggest the region will experience more frequent and severe storms in the future which will increase the challenges of meeting the mandated Bay TMDL. The EPA tells us that fully implementing the state-specific, WIPs (pollution-reduction plans) will still reduce nutrient and sediment runoff and reduce the flooding during storm events by the planted buffers that are part of all the plans. Below you can see the overall trend over the past few decades. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Rural Crescent an Urban Growth Boundary

Last Thursday the Prince William Conservation Alliance and its cooperating partners, the Coalition to Protect Prince William, and the County Civic Associations (Mid-County, Nokesville, Lake Ridge Occoquan Coles and Woodbridge Potomac Communities) had a public meeting to talk about smart growth and the Rural Crescent in Prince William County.

The Rural Crescent was created in 1998 and originally intended as an urban growth boundary for the county designed to preserve the agricultural heritage and force redevelopment along the Route 1 corridor rather than development in the remaining rural areas. This was to be accomplished by limiting development to one home per 10 acres with no access to public sewers. The Rural Crescent has been chipped away at for years, but still contains around 80,000-acres; however, active farming in Prince William continues to decrease.

Within the Rural Crescent development density is limited to one house per 10 acres. In addition, there is a limit on sewer extensions and public water creating one of the most protective zonings areas in Virginia. Creating the Rural Crescent slowed the loss of rural land in Prince William County, but did not stop it as rural land was cut up into 10 acre parcels. In addition, farming itself has been changing and the smaller farms in Prince William County cannot compete against giant industrial farms using the old models of farming. Small scale agriculture, community supported agriculture, agri-businesses (breweries, wineries, farm-to-table stores and restaurants, etc.), and agri-tourism appear to be the only feasible future for agriculture in Prince William County. These businesses also have the advantage of engaging with the community and adding to the local quality of life.

However, according to the consultants hired by the county and based on the experience of the past 21 years, unless the zoning is very protective (one home per 30 to 50 acres, zoning alone will not preserve agriculture in the county and we are doomed to see the Rural Crescent cut up into 10 acre lots for large and expensive rural homes. There has been continual pressure on the Office of Planning, the Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors by developers and landowners interested in maximizing the value of property to amend the zoning to increase development density for parcels in the Rural Crescent.

The Prince William County Rural Preservation Study completed several years ago found a broad support among stakeholders (community groups and residents) that it is important to maintain a Rural Area within the County. Increased density development in the Rural Crescent is inconsistent with the social objectives of maintaining a wildlife habitat, preservation of farmland, preservation of groundwater and surface water supplies and the Occoquan Reservoir, protection of historically significant areas and scenic views within the County. Another point of general consensus was that current preservation policies (primarily 10-acre zoning) is a one-size fits all approach that was not working very well across the large Rural Crescent area, which varies greatly in character and geology from one end to the other.

There has been continual pressure on the Office of Planning, the Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors by developers and landowners interested in maximizing the value of property to amend the zoning to increase development density for parcels in the Rural Crescent. Notice in the last version of the revised Rural Crescent the transition area of higher density is carved out of the existing Rural Crescent that is currently zoned A1. Though much more money could be made by the landowners (of those parcels) and developers by building at an increased density, more dense suburban developments would not improve the quality of life of county residents, and would damage the ecology or the region and quality of life of all county residents.

It is often believed that when you own land you can do what you want with the land, but that is not true. Zoning and other restrictions may hinder the ways in which land can be used or developed. We have zoning and the county has a comprehensive plan to guide land use and development decisions that are made by the Planning Commission and the Board of County Supervisors. As a matter of fact, Virginia law requires every governing body to adopt a comprehensive plan for the development of the lands within its jurisdiction to make sure that a county is developed in a way to ensure the community’s best interests. Within the framework of the comprehensive plan, land ownership is a series of rights and the ability to use those rights.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance believes that Prince William County is presently at a cross roads. The County has been upgrading the infrastructure of the Route 1 corridor which was initially developed more than fifty years ago. Route 1 was widened, powerlines were moved underground and other infrastructure has been upgraded. That area in eastern Prince William County is now primed for redevelopment. Redevelopment of these areas, called by the industry Brownfield redevelopment, is more challenging than developing on farmland and open areas. In addition, there are no incentives to take on the challenge of a Brownfield in Prince William County.

Though I found the discussion and comments from the audience members to be very enlightening; many people are angry for different reasons. No one seemed to have a fully developed vision for a sustainable and mixed use county with affordable, walkable, neighborhoods within the urban areas. In the past 21 years Prince William has grown even more residential- we are approaching 90% residential and 10% commercial, but being a bedroom community to Washington DC is not sustainable. We lack a vision and plan for the future of Prince William County, not just the Rural Crescent. The speakers were: Melinda Masters a community activist, Tom Eitler, Senior Vice President for the Urban Land Institute and former PWC Chief of Long-range Planning; and Mike May, who was a member of the PW Board of Zoning Appeals, and Occoquan District on the Board of Supervisors from 2007 to 2016.

Tom showed how the real opportunity for the county was to encourage and incentivize redevelopment and infill projects. This would require commitment from the County elected officials. His points included that the 450,000 residents of Prince William County who do not own large parcels of land in the Rural Crescent should not have their taxes increased to build the infrastructure in the Rural Crescent and subsidize the value of the rural land. Instead we should be building high density mixed use urban communities within the “development area” of the county. This is a conversation about the future of Prince William County. We need to all participate and shape the future of our community.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Some Money for Alexandria Sewer Project in State Budgetfrom Alex

Tucked into the budget that just passed the Virginia General Assembly was $25 million of state funding requested by Alexandria to help pay for adding storage into the combined sewer system of Old Town. A 2018 law passed by Virginia General Assembly mandated remediation of the existing combined sewer outfalls by July 1, 2025. This is a tight timeline, but Alexandria and AlexRenew are confident they can meet this goal.

The area of Alexandria around Old Town has a Combined Sewer System which is a piped sewer system where there is one pipe that carries both sanitary sewage and stormwater to the local wastewater treatment plant, AlexRene. This was how sewer systems were often built in the days when sanitation was simply moving sewage out of the city to the rivers and streams. Back then one piping system was cheaper and adequate for the job. Today when sewage is treated by waste water treatment plants that is no longer adequate.

When it rains, water that falls in the streets, enters the storm water drains and is combined with the sanitary waste water entering the sewers from homes and businesses. The combined flow of the sewage and rain can overwhelm the waste water treatment plant. So, to protect the sewage system as a whole, the combined sewage and rainfall is released into the local creeks from one of the “Combined Sewer Overflows” which are release locations permitted and monitored by the regulators. Though it’s monitored it increases nutrient and bacterial contamination to the streams and rivers.

The 2017 mandate from the state legislature was to eliminate these overflows by 2025, creating a challenge for the city, but partially based on the experience of Washington DC in addressing their combined sewer problem, AlexRenew was confident that they could meet this challenge. Alexandria and AlexRenew submitted a long term control plan to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) that was approved on  July 1, 2018. In order to accomplish the plan, Alexandria transferred ownership of the outfalls and the interceptor lines (the sewer mains transporting to the raw sewage to the treatment plant) to AlexRenew. The approved plan, called RiverRenew, includes building a tunnel system with:
  • Storage tunnels 
  • Conveyance tunnels 
  • Diversion facilities (diversion chambers and drop shafts) 
  • Dewatering pumping stations 
    From Alex Renew

and upgrading the AlexRenew waste water treatment plant by:
  • Adding a wet weather pumping station and
  • Increase treatment peak capacity for the waste water treatment plant from 108 to 116 million gallons a day 

RiverRenew  when completed will prevent millions of gallons of sewage mixed with rainwater from contaminating the Alexandria rivers and streams. This will limit the amount of bacteria, trash, and other pollutants flowing into Hooffs Run, Hunting Creek, and the Potomac River  and achieve cleaner, healthier waterways for Alexandria.

Currently, and throughout the spring, RiverRenew will continue to work through the Environmental Assessment process with the regulators and conduct field investigations to inform the tunnel system design. The Environmental Assessment document analyzes the potential impacts on the community and environment to ensure that natural resources, cultural resources, and community impacts are considered when locating proposed alternatives for the tunnel system.Alexandria residents will pay for most of the project costs which are estimated to cost between $370 and $555 million. So far $30 million has been spent by Alexandria, and the state has now chipped in $25 million. The costs to the AlexRenew customers could be between $22-$40 per sewer connection per month to finance the remainder of the project, but will benefit not only the City of Alexandria, but the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Neabsco Creek Dredging Complete

Last spring the U.S. Coast Guard declared Neabsco Creek too shallow to safely navigate by motorized watercraft and closed the channel. During their 2018 survey the Coast Guard found that Neabsco Creek depth was less than five feet deep, the authorized depth. Neabsco Creek has three privately-owned marinas with about 1,000 recreational boats as well as a water-rescue boat belonging to a Prince William County volunteer fire department. The marinas also house a boat lift, used by larger vessels from across the region, and the only marine gas station in the region open 365 days a year.

The Coast Guard’s warning signs reading “Danger Shoal” threatened the continued use of Neabsco Creek for boating. The only way to restore the waterway was to dredge. It was estimated that it would cost $750,000 to $1,000,000 to dredge out what had been the navigable portion of Neabsco Creek. A coalition of marina owners and recreational boaters turned to Prince William County for help. Recreational boating is important to Prince William County not only for its economic contribution, but also for the quality of life.

The Board of County Supervisors allocated up to $750,000 grant funding to dredge the creek, and the county also obtained a grant from the Virginia Port Authority for up to $250,000. The extra funds went towards the dredging of the channel, and allowed the County to dredge the creek to six feet and a 50-foot-wide channel for boaters to come in and out of the marinas. In addition to the dredging funded by the county, local marina owners got together, formed a partnership and contributed approximately $150,000 to dredge their marinas at the same time the channel was being dredged.

The bottom of creeks routinely fill with sand and silt, gradually filling in the channel until it is no long safe to navigate. This is called sedimentation and is a natural process, but it can be exacerbated by poor storm water management practices and impervious ground cover which increases the volume and velocity of runoff.

Sediment can come from soil erosion or from the decomposition of plants and animals. Wind, water and ice help carry these particles to rivers, lakes and stream. According to the EPA natural erosion produces 30% of the sediment in our streams and lakes, erosion from human use of land accounts for the remaining 70% - one of the most significant sediment releases come from construction activities, including relatively minor home-building projects such as landscape projects room additions and swimming pools.

For longer term solutions and to reduce the need for dredging in the future, the sources of sediment need to be reduced. The Watershed Management Branch of the County’s Public Works Department, engaged a watershed study in the five northernmost sub-sheds of the Neabsco Creek watershed. The purpose of the study was to assess the condition of existing stormwater management facilities and streams. In addition to identifying existing problems, they also identified opportunities to reduce sediment flow in the future through reforestation and land conversion projects. By restoring natural functions to land that has been affected by development, the County can improve local waterways and reduce sediment flow in the future. Now that Neabsco Creek has been dredged we need to implement practices to prevent sedimentation in the future.