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Sewage Spill Reported in Four Mile Run

by ARLnow.com April 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm 4,722 52 Comments

Update on 4/6/12 — The advisory for Four Mile Run has been lifted.

Arlington County is reporting a sewage spill near Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street, next to Four Mile Run.

The spill came from an overflowing sewage pipe and was not the result of construction activity, according to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. Workers from the nearby Arlington Mill Community Center construction site spotted an overflowing manhole cover and helped to contain the spill, Kennedy said.

DES estimates that about 6,000 gallons of sewage spilled from the manhole over the course of an hour. The spill was first spotted at 11:00 a.m. and was largely contained by noon, we’re told.

Officials are advising residents to avoid contact with Four Mile Run from Columbia Pike to the Potomac River until further notice. From an Arlington County press release:

Residents are advised to stay away from the affected waters and to keep their pets away until further notice, to eliminate the risk of exposure to untreated sewage. Residents should not fish in the streams or have any contact with the waters – including wading or swimming – until further notice from the County. The advisory to avoid all contact is considered an extra precaution to allow the effect of the discharge to be diminished by natural flushing of the streams. The recreational areas affected include the following parks adjacent to the streams: Barcroft, Shirlington, Jennie Dean, Allie Freed and Bicentennial Gardens.

The County has posted flyers along the affected areas of Four Mile Run.

It will take about a week for the sewage to work its way out of the stream to the point where the county will declare it safe for humans and pets, Kennedy said. That process would be sped up by any rain the area receives over the next week.

  • T.G.E.0.A….

    Poop on the water.

    • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

      Deep Brown did that song, right ??

  • Bender

    Is the spill above or below the County’s construction site for the new community center?

    Or was the spill caused by the County’s construction?

    • Bender

      The spill was “contained by crews working the scene”

      If there were crews working at Columbia Pike and Dinwiddie, such that the spill could be contained at all, then those would be the County’s own construction crew.

  • I hope notices can go up at Shirlington Dog Park in time to avoid any pups or their owners coming into contact.

  • novasteve

    Ever notice how work crews in arlington are always causing these problems? The verizon service outtage becaues they cut their own cable, gas leaks, etc due to incompetence of the crews?

    • drax

      They probably drive automatic transmissions too.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        And are college educated with liberal arts degrees.

        • arlwhat

          And have the audacity to not smoke.

  • ArlingtonSouth

    ARLNow – you want a tip? HITT and/or Arlington County consistently works at this site outside of the permitted construction hours. HITT and/or Arlington County does not have proper sediment control practices for the site. HITT and/or Arlington County are not providing adequate control and safety when doing work in the public right-of-way. HITT and/or Arlington County are not checking the site to make sure that things are within the approved site development plan. The Arlington County police are not responding to complaints that the crews are working outside of permitted hours.

    I think I may have to show up at every future affordable housing boondoggle in the county if this is how it runs/contracts for construction.

    • brendan

      good stuff. thank you for posting! hope something comes of it.

    • South Awwwlington

      Now the question is – which of my neighbors are you…and can you walk my dog?

      JK. 😉

    • nauckneighor

      I know affordable housing is to blame for most of Arlington’s issues according to some commenters, but how is this remotely related? HITT and Arlington County are building the Arlington Mill Community Center.

      • ArlingtonSouth

        …and 120 affordable housing units on the same site.

  • South Awwwlington

    Oh brother, I can’t wait to go home tonight. Welcome to the jungle.

  • SouthPikeGuy

    Not having much experience with this type of stuff, is 6,000 gallons a lot? It sounds like a lot.

    • KLB

      I think when talking about sewage, any “leaked” amount is a lot.

    • Jackson

      (1) Get a gallon milk jug.
      (2) Fill it with poop.
      (3) Multiply by 6,000.

      I also just read online that the average backyard in-ground swimming pool contains about 22,000 gallons of water, so… imagine it a bit over 25% filled with sewage.

      • drax

        Pretty much any pool is 25% sewage anyway.

        • Maria

          I think you need to find a new pool.

          • drax

            Oh, your pool is full of crap too.

    • j

      Think 1200 office water cooler bottles of poop. It’s a significant amount. For poop.

    • brendan

      eh. best reference would be if you’ve ever seen them flushing a fire hydrant — roughly about ten minutes at that volume. quite a bit of s—.

  • Geezer

    I guess there’ll be no trout fishing this Spring then….except for a few floaters

    • FrenchyB

      Sounds like they decided to stock the stream with brown trout instead of rainbows this year.

      • j

        I love poop-related comments. Kudos.

  • In case anyone thought we were in the clear, Four Mile Run remains a toxic waste site.

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      So much for my plans for “Four Mile Run Springs” bottled water! (“For the thirst-quenching taste of coliform”)

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Pandemonium in the potty! Excelsior!

  • Bender

    Just walked down there.

    The manhole in question is along the path on the small sliver of land between Four Mile Run and the community center construction site.

    In general, the sewer lines run from the neighborhood perpendicular to the creek. The construction site right now is a huge hole in the ground, with those sewer lines likely running directly underneath.

    It is awfully coincidental, to say the least, for a manhole that has a nearby sewer line running underneath the construction to spill.

    And it is awfully convenient for the County to just claim right from the outset that the spill was not caused by their construction. What environmental impact investigation has been conducted in order for the County to make this claim?

  • PUP

    awesome. i’m pumped for this.

  • brendan

    “The spill came from an overflowing sewage pipe and was not the result of construction activity, according to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. ”

    what caused it then?

    • nom de guerre

      Generally this type of overflow spill is caused by a clogged sewer line which is a common occurence. I believe the County has at least 2 Vactor or Camel trucks that are used to clear and flush clogged sewer and/or stormwater lines.

      • Bender

        And what caused the clog?

        What actions aggravated other actions so as to cause the clog?

        • nom de guerre

          I would guess an accumulation of things that are flushed down the toilet-both common and uncommon. As a parent I have witnessed my children flushing all types of things-toy dinosaurs, hairbrushes, etc. Ask a plumber what types of things they have found and I’m sure we will both be surprised.

          • Bender

            I would rather not guess. Rather than guessing, a proper investigation to definitively rule out whether or not the construction was a contributory factor (due to vibrations, changes in soil density, etc.) is called for. THIS IS A PROTECTED AREA. Or, at least, it is supposed to be.

  • Runaway Train

    Ugh. Just got back from a run, passed a mom walking with her two kids behind Barcroft Sport Complex on the trail. Both her kids were carrying their shoes walking barefoot and were drenched.

    Ernest says ewwwwww

  • Beth

    There needs to be more oversight surrounding the AAMC Construction site. It’s bad enough when school buses, metro buses, ART buses, garbage trucks, commuters, students, pedestrians, and construction trucks & equipment are all vying for the same narrow strip of roadway down Dinwiddie during the height of morning rush hour, but now the mess is spilling over into our beautiful trail and stream area. The spillage might not be the fault of HITT, but the rest of the mess is.

    • Bender

      Before the old center was even torn down, I looked in vain for any environmental impact studies for this construction, which is immediately adjacent the stream (a protected Chesapeake Bay area) and within the water table for feeder springs into the stream.

  • The overflow was the result of a blockage in a sewer main near the stream that was forcing sewage to exit the system through a manhole and across a trail before entering the stream.

    Even under the best circumstances, we advise residents to take precautions when around local streams. Stream water can contain microorganisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Here are some tips on enjoying our streams safely.


    Regarding the concern about sewer lines underneath the construction site, the County rerouted the sewer from S. Dinwiddie to Columbia Pike and back to the Arlington Mill Drive as part of the project construction. The sewer line that was running under the site was abandoned prior to the excavation reaching the sewer line depth.

    If you have concerns about the Arlington Mill Community Center Construction, we encourage you to contact our Project Manager John Mir at 703-228-7887.

    Myllisa Kennedy, Arlington County Department of Environmental Services

    • drax

      Thanks. Still possible that the rerouting was a factor.

  • Chris

    This is simply the greatest collection of location specific poop jokes ever. You are all to be commended.

    • drax

      I’ve got a case of the Four Mile Runs.

  • Michael H.
  • Calabria

    Are you sure this wasn’t at Donaldson Run?

    • drax

      Thank you.

    • Map reader

      Hey, Donaldson Run’s sxxt don’t stink!

  • J

    As of this morning, despite what is stated in the press release, there are no warning signs or flyers posted along the waterway or the trail from at least George Mason Dr. to S. Walter Reed Drive.

    • Last evening at Shirlington Dog Park, there was a small sign posted near the southern gate (not actually on the gate, mind you) leading to the stream, but no sign posted at the northern gate to the stream. I would venture to guess that more folks use the northern gate to take their dogs down to the “beach” and I saw a few wet dogs trotting by last night.

      • Gormley


  • drax

    Saw a very sick-looking raccoon on the trail just downstream of the spill yesterday, in broad daylight. Don’t know if it was sick from the spill, but the stink was really strong there.

  • Really sad if this starts to affect the wildlife in that area.


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