APS To Use ‘Big Data’ to Prevent Dropouts — Arlington Public Schools held a contest this summer for “big data” companies to analyze its student performance data, and plans to use the newly-released results to predict which students are at risk of dropping out of school. The winning company, Deep Learning Analytics, found that APS should refine its data collecting techniques. In addition, it found that, along with attendance, behavior and coursework, socioeconomic standing is a predictive indicator for school dropouts. [Arlington Public Schools]
Military Jet to Land at DCA — The Scorpion, a new military fighter jet, will land at Reagan National Airport on Saturday. The jet — manufactured by Textron AirLand LLC — will stay in a DCA hangar for a week, for marketing purposes. [InsideNova]
County Launches New Blog — Arlington County has launched “Natural Arlington,” a new blog to discuss environmental issues in the county. Recent topics include a discussion of green frogs, the environmental issues with dog poop, and a post about the sale of native plants at local nurseries. [Natural Arlington]
Road Closure for Street Fair — Part of 9th Street S. will be closed in the area of Walter Reed Drive for the annual Prio Bangla Potho Mela street fair. The event is taking place Saturday morning. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Bill Ross
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will lead an effort to clean up the shoreline at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary near Crystal City tomorrow (Thursday).
The Department of the Interior oversees the National Park Service, which is in the middle of a process of environmental and access enhancements to the sanctuary and to Gravelly Point Park, across the George Washington Parkway from the sanctuary. To help out with that project, Jewell and volunteers from AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association will plant “native wetland species,” remove invasive plants and clean up trash from the sanctuary’s shoreline.
The program will start at 11:30 a.m. and the cleanup efforts will go until 4:00 p.m. The cleanup is meant to not only help with the ecosystem of Roaches Run, but also to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as part of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“The day is going to be commemorating 9/11 and recognizing the importance of giving back to the community through hands-on service work,” SCA events manager Lori Robertson told ARLnow.com. “Because it’s so close to such an urban area and really close to the parkway, [Roaches Run] has been neglected over time. [The NPS] is trying to rehab and restore its health.”
The event is also part of Jewell and Interior’s youth initiative. About a third of the Interior Department’s staff will be eligible to retire within the next five years, according to Jewell. As a result, the department is looking to recruit young people who can be the nation’s future stewards of public lands.
“I’ve had the privilege of being out on many service projects in the outdoors with young people,” Jewell says in a video about the initiative. “One thing that strikes me is, when they get their hands dirty working on the land, when they make a difference and they build a segment of trail, they never look at that place in the same way.”
Photo via Google Maps
From 10:00 to 10:30 p.m., the students in Woodlawn’s Earth Force Group want everyone to dim or turn off unnecessary lights, and draw their shades or curtains to prevent light pollution. The half hour of observance coincides with Earth Day today, Arlington’s Green Expo on Saturday, International Dark Sky Week and, according to sixth-grader Samara Cathirell, “the peak migration of birds over our region.”
“Studies have linked various cancers to over-exposure to artificial lighting, including breast and prostate cancer,” said the Earth Force press release credited to Samara. “Some amphibians have been shown to come out later to feed and are missing their prey opportunities. Millions of birds die each year by flying into tall artificially lit buildings. Algae continues to grow excessively at night under the artificial lights polluting streams, and nitric oxides and C02 (a greenhouse gas) and SO2 are building up contributing to pollution.”
During the period of observance, residents are asked to go outside and enjoy what the Earth Force group hopes will be a starry night sky.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will be a speaker this Thursday at the showing of a film that examines the impact that plastic bags and other plastic products have on the environment.
The film, called “Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?” will be presented at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. The event is hosted by Tap In Arlington, a grassroots organization campaigning against single-use plastic water bottles.
Fisette launched a “personal crusade” against plastic bottles last year, is a supporter of Tap In and debated a bottled water industry executive in January. Fisette will speak alongside the film’s director and star, Jeb Berrier.
In promotional material, the film is described as “touching and often flat-out-funny” and Berrier is said to be an “everyman… who is admittedly not a tree hugger.”
Tickets for the event are $10 at the door, or $5 for students and seniors.
New bio-retention basins have been built next to the classroom trailers — or “relocatables,” in Arlington parlance — at Abingdon and Nottingham elementary schools and at Washington-Lee High School.
A new video produced by Arlington Public Schools (above) explains how the basins work and why they’re necessary.
With the resolution passed by the Board, Arlington joins the environmental advocacy nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity’s campaign to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to “make full use of the Clean Air Act” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Arlington is the 70th municipality to endorse the campaign, a list that includes Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
From the CBD’s press release:
“President Obama took another step last week toward deploying the Clean Air Act against greenhouse gas pollution, and now is the moment to push the federal government for ambitious action,” said Rose Braz, the Center’s climate campaign director. “Arlington’s leaders, like people in communities around the country, understand the dangers of climate change and are urging action through the passage of this resolution. To avert climate chaos, we must make full use of the Clean Air Act.”
With 32 heat records broken, 2012 was the third-hottest year ever recorded for Virginia. Rising temperatures bring the threat of additional heat-related illness and deaths, increased air pollution and drought. Just last week, coastal Virginia mayors and other local elected officials gathered in Williamsburg to call for increased state action on climate in light of serious local impacts, including flooding and sea level rise.
The Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign is working around the country to encourage cities to pass resolutions supporting the Clean Air Act and using the Act to reduce carbon in our atmosphere to no more than 350 parts per million, the level scientists say we must reach in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.
This article was written by Audrey Batcheller
So far this summer, Arlington has been subject to flash floods and flash flood warnings. While flash floods are obviously harmful to those who live in or are trying to navigate through a flooded area, the floods can actually be harmful to the ecology of the flooded waterway itself.
A flash flood is a weather condition defined by the National Weather Service as “a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event.” In other words, a tremendous amount of water in a short amount of time caused by thunderstorms or heavy rainfall.
These types of storms are most common in Arlington during the spring and summer months due to the weather and climate of the area, which explains why the flood threats have picked up recently.
The effects of flash floods depend on factors such as the amount of previous rainfall the area has experienced and how much rainfall can be absorbed in the area. Flash floods, therefore, affect all areas and environments differently and there’s no blanket formula to predict how a storm will affect a given area.
“When rainfall runs from developed surfaces in Arlington to local streams, it washes any nutrients on the surface into the watershed,” explains WJLA meteorologist and Arlington Public Schools high school science teacher Ryan Miller.
These nutrients can include fertilizer, pet waste, and gasoline, and when they infiltrate runoff heading towards local tributaries, they eventually end up in the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Waterways suffer from the introduction of these pollutants which catalyze a harmful process called eutrophication.
Eutrophication occurs when algae blooms in a body of water deplete the dissolved oxygen levels in the water. This loss of oxygen creates what is referred to as anoxic water and typically results in an environment unsuitable for living organisms.
The harmful effects of eutrophication and runoff can be augmented by flash flooding, considering the abundance of water washing into local streams such as Four Mile Run or Long Branch.
Fisette will moderate and George Mason University’s Arlington campus will host “a special public forum to discuss the environmental and economic implications of single-use plastic water bottles,” from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, April 15. The forum, entitled “Say NO to Bottled H2O,” will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall Auditorium (3351 Fairfax Drive).
In addition to a panel discussion with environmental and water experts, the event will feature a screening of the documentary “Bag It,” which critically explores the use of single-use disposable bags. The forum is being co-sponsored by GMU, Arlington County, The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Arlington Public Schools, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Marymount University and the George Mason Environmental Law Society.
The forum is also the kick-off for a new grassroots organization called “Tap in Arlington,” which asks residents to “choose to drink tap water instead of purchasing single use plastic water bottles.”
The organization says 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce billions of single-use plastic water bottles annually, and less than 30 percent of those bottles are recycled. Bottled water is 2-4 times the price of gasoline, according to statistics cited by Tap in Arlington.
Fisette said the effort reflects the public commitment he made on New Years Day to bring attention to the use of bottled water and its environmental impacts.
“I raised the issue on January 1, stating that I would begin a ‘personal crusade’ to reduce the use of plastic water bottles,” Fisette said. “Well, the crusade is about to begin.”
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democrats’ nominee for governor, is trying to explain away his decision to locate a GreenTech Automotive plant, and the 1,500 manufacturing jobs that go with it, in Mississippi instead of Virginia.
McAuliffe initially tried to blame the GreenTech plant location decision on a lack of support from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. After examining the email trail on the matter, PolitiFact rated McAuliffe’s claim as “false,” and the AP seems to agree. It appears that McAuliffe’s company never really tried that hard to put the plant here in Virginia.
While we cannot blame a company for locating its facilities in a state that makes the most sense for its bottom line, it is certainly fair game to ask why McAuliffe, and his well known gubernatorial ambitions, did not locate the plant and jobs here. McAuliffe has maintained an active political presence pointed to the 2013 campaign in Virginia since losing to Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Democratic primary.
Every governor wants, or should want, to create an environment where businesses develop and grow. Governor McDonnell has made it a point of emphasis for Virginia to rank high on the list of “best states to do business” each year. Both McAuliffe and the Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli will likely make the economy a top issue in their campaigns.
GreenTech was the perfect business for McAuliffe to point to for his economic bonafides in a run for governor of Virginia. It appeals to Northern Virginia concerns about transportation and the environment. And, he could have certainly found a suitable location in Virginia with a manufacturing labor force ready to go.
So, it is hard to understand why he would not attempt to move heaven and earth to locate the GreenTech plant here in Virginia rather than outsourcing to Mississippi.
McAuliffe’s bigger problem with voters may not even be that he made a controversial business decision, but that he felt compelled to try and rewrite history about the decision. By attempting to spin his way out of the problem, he actually made the problem worse. Now, McAuliffe can probably look forward to hearing “he created hundreds of jobs in Mississippi instead of Virginia then lied about it” all the way through election day in November.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday afternoon for 1776 Wilson Boulevard, one of the county’s newest office buildings.
The $33.5 million office building includes four floors of office space, 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, and 231 garage parking spaces. With environmental features like a green vegetated roof, solar panels, electric vehicle chargers and water use reduction systems, developer Skanska USA is seeking LEED Platinum sustainability certification.
The building is located in Rosslyn at the intersection with N. Quinn Street. The project included the construction of a new section of N. Quinn Street to connect Wilson Blvd to Clarendon Blvd.
Attendees at Friday’s ribbon cutting included representatives from Skanska USA, County Board members Jay Fisette and Chris Zimmerman, Rosslyn BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy, and George Contis, the doctor who sold the property to Skanska in 2010.
The building still being leased out, but confirmed tenants include CRDF Global and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Skanska has also established its new regional headquarters in the building.
If the Arlington County Board goes along with a new set of recommendations from County Manager Barbara Donnellan, Arlington could soon be served by a fleet of 40 all-electric cabs equipped with 4G WiFi hotspots and iPads for passenger use.
As part of this year’s taxicab certificate allocation process, Donnellan is recommending that a total of 65 additional taxis be added to the county’s existing licensed fleet of 765 cabs. Among the companies receiving a recommended allocation from Donnellan is an Arlington-based upstart, EV Taxicabs.
The company is set to get permits to operate 40 cabs in Arlington under Donnellan’s recommendation. According to EV Taxicabs’ website and Facebook page, the cabs will be all-electric Nissan Leafs, a five-door hatchback that gets the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon.
In addition to being all-electric, the cabs will be equipped with a high-speed 4G WiFi hotspot and an Apple iPad, both for passenger use. The cabs will be dispatched using what’s described as a “state-of-the-art cloud-based dispatch solution… running on Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet.” Passengers will be able to book the cabs via smart phone or the company’s website.
In addition to the cabs, the company has pledged to install more than 50 electric vehicle chargers around Arlington.
Donnellan writes that based on a scale that considers various factors — including environmental impact, customer service, business feasibility and employee treatment — EV Taxicabs received the highest rating of any cab applicant. (Ten companies applied this year.)
Based on the rating system, EV Taxicab was rated the highest of all applicants. It will be installing a number of quick charge stations throughout the County that will be available to the general public as well as their drivers. This will encourage additional usage of zero emission vehicles, helping Arlington County to be a pioneer in this new technology.
The EV Taxicab applicant is a current Arlington County taxi driver. He is bringing his experience and wants to address and cooperate with County staff to improve the drivers’ profession. He proposes to provide training, two week annual vacation, health and fitness club membership, financial management training, customer service training, assistance with legal representation and is looking into providing life insurance for drivers. The EV Taxicab application impressed County staff through its use of technology and its apparent commitment to fair treatment for its drivers.
EV Taxicabs is not the only non-traditional cab company set to benefit from Donnellan’s recommendation. The “carbon-negative” EnviroCab company is set to receive 10 additional cab allocations. Separately, the company recently announced plans to add one all-electric Nissan Leaf to its current fleet of 49 hybrids.
Under the County Manager’s recommendations, Friendly Cab, Blue Top Cab and Red Top Cab will each be allowed to add five additional taxis to their fleet. The recommendations specify that Blue Top and Red Top are to add only wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Donnellan’s recommendations will be considered by the County Board at its Nov. 17 meeting.
County Offering Grants for Runoff Projects — Arlington County is seeking local residents, businesses and homeowners associations interested in reducing stormwater runoff and pollution from their property. Using $80,000 received from the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, the county will offer cost-sharing grants to those who want to embark on runoff-reducing projects, like green roofs, rain gardens, conservation landscaping, infiltration trenches, cisterns, and pervious walkways and driveways. [Washington Post]
Arlington Teen Named ‘National Student Poet’ — Washington-Lee senior Luisa Banchoff, 17, has been named one of five 2012 National Student Poets, the “country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.” [Patch, Art & Writing Awards]
Library Recommends Books for Bullying — If your child is getting bullied, Arlington Public Library has some recommendations for books that can help him or her cope. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Update at 4:40 p.m. — Chlorinated water leaking from a water main near Shirlington has seeped into Four Mile Run and killed “dozens” of fish, an Arlington County official told ARLnow.com this afternoon.
We first reported the leak near 2400 S. Walter Reed Drive this morning, after Claremont and Fairlington residents reported widespread low water pressure in the area. Now we’re told that the leak — in a 12-inch pipe — has resulted in a significant fish kill.
From Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel:
Residents may notice dead fish in portions of Four Mile Run downstream of the break due to the chlorinated water being released. This water is not harmful to humans or pets, but unfortunately resulted in a fish kill. Residents should follow the County’s normal precautions for safe use of urban streams.
McDaniel said repairs on the water main are expected to continue into tomorrow. Residents may continue to experience low water pressure but “no one is expected to be without water,” she said.
August brings the eleventh anniversary of the most notorious stream pollution incident in Arlington County history. In the years since golf course runoff poisoned the Donaldson Run and Gulf Branch streams, residents and county officials alike have stepped up their protection of our region’s waterways.
In August 2001, an herbicide applied to 12 fairways at the Washington Golf and Country Club washed into Donaldson Run and Gulf Branch after a storm. Eight thousand pounds of this herbicide, Basamid G, had been applied to kill all plant and animal life in the top two inches of the fairways’ soil. However, it did a whole lot more than its intention. The runoff killed an estimated 1,000 American eels. No living organisms were found in the streams following the storm.
Jen McDonnell, a Stormwater Outreach Specialist at Arlington’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management, said the incident “brought attention to the impacts that runoff can have on our streams.”
After this event, golf course officials agreed to halt the treatment of the remaining six fairways, which would drain into Gulf Branch. In 2005, facing civil charges, the golf course agreed to a consent decree in which it paid $145,000 to reimburse the costs incurred by the federal government — specifically, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – in responding to the incident.
Arlington County code makes it unlawful for “any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect.”
McDonnell said that she is “not aware of any other penalty fines which have been paid for stream pollution.” However, she does know that polluters oftentimes have to pay for cleanup activities following a spill.
Despite the threat of financial consequences, pollution still continues, often unknowingly, from residents applying pesticides and fertilizers onto their lawn. The county and some environmental groups have been trying to counter the contamination with various stream-friendly projects.
The new public plaza at the Penrose Square development along Columbia Pike is still expected to open this fall, despite a recent setback.
The contractor working on the $2 million project found and accidentally ruptured an oil tank earlier this month during excavation work, we’re told. The rupture contaminated part of the site, but the county and contractors worked quickly to remedy the situation.
According to Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:
The tank’s presence was previously unknown by the County. [Arlington] County’s construction manager immediately stopped contractor from working and notified our 3rd party consultant. Samples were taken and the fire marshal and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) were notified. VADEQ directed County to have the tanks removed by a licensed contractor in the presence of the fire marshal. Samples were also taken to determine the extent of the contamination. Remediation steps have been approved by VADEQ.
Kalish said the plaza is still on track to open this fall.
“Construction is scheduled to be completed and the project opened in fall 2012,” she told ARLnow.com. “This issue will cause some delay, but is still expected to be completed and open in fall 2012.”
The plaza will consist of “a tree-covered, upper terrace with movable tables and chairs; an inner plaza with a water feature; a unique two-piece sculpture called ‘Echo’; an inscription of the historic significance of the site, and a grass mound area shaded with trees for informal seating,” according to the county.