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.
In 2005, the Arlington County Board approved a contract to begin restoration of more than a half mile section of the Donaldson Run Stream in Zachary Taylor Park. This $1.5 million project was initiated by the Donaldson Run Civic Association (DRCA). The DRCA received a $75,000 grant from Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation for the project, so the group did not have to foot the entire bill.
Anne Wilson, President of the Donaldson Run Civic Association, said that the project was a “great success” and “improved the long term health of the stream and the waters it flows into.”
In 2008, the County Board approved a sanitary district tax to fund improvements in the stormwater system. Stormwater picks up many pesticides, fertilizers, and soaps from car washes as it makes its way to storm drains and thus infects our streams. The average Arlington homeowner pays about $75 for this tax per year.
There have been numerous other programs and projects funded by the county in an effort to reduce stream pollution. Arlington has completed two Green Street projects, and there are several more in design. Green Streets use a vegetated landscape to capture storm water runoff and breakdown pollutants before they can enter a stream.
The Stormwater Wise Landscapes Program is a pilot program offered in partnership with the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment. It not only guides, but funds Arlington residents to implement run-off reducing practices in their own yard.
Arlington’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management coordinates a volunteer stream monitoring program. The volunteers meet monthly to collect water samples and monitor the variety of macro-invertebrates in our streams to determine if the water is impaired. The data is then given to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Arlington also recently hired a professional team to also monitor the streams.
“Their data reinforced what our citizen monitoring data had indicated, that Arlington’s streams are severely stressed due to non-point source pollution,” McDonnell said.
These projects are essential not only to stream health, but to Arlington residents’ health as well.
“Many of Arlington’s residents come into contact with Arlington’s streams through recreational activities… we want to keep bacteria and nutrient levels within a range that does not pose a health risk to residents or their pets,” McDonnell said.
Arlington residents hoping to do their part to protect our steams can take several simple steps at home, including:
- Washing cars with biodegradable soap
- Picking up after pets (e-coli from pet fecal matter can easily wash into streams)
- Not putting fats, oil, or grease down the sink as it can cause a sewage backup
- Learning how to install a rain barrel — which helps to prevent moderate stream erosion — at one of the many rain barrel workshops offered in Arlington County
Strong wind gusts have brought down trees and knocked out power in parts of Arlington tonight. More than 3,500 Dominion customers were without power in Arlington as of 10:45 p.m….
A 40-year-old Arlington man has been arrested and charged with murder. James Ray Williams is accused of fatally shooting a man at an apartment on the 100 block of N….
Arlington is not just a place on a map — it’s a community. And the heart of this community lies in its small mom-and-pop shops. These small, family-owned businesses have…
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 8607 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
Private School Fair
Congressional School to Host MONA Private School Fair Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 PM
Congressional School in Falls Church, VA is delighted to host the MONA (Mothers of North Arlington) at an upcoming Private School Fair. Private schools from around
WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and