County Investigates Mysterious Four Mile Run Foam

by ARLnow.com September 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm 8,671 62 Comments

The Arlington County Fire Department and the county’s Department of Environmental Services (DES) were called to Four Mile Run near Shirlington this morning for a report of a huge mass of foam accumulating in the creek.

It’s thought that the foam was caused by some sort of soap or detergent. Firefighters tested the foam using a chemical strip and determined that it was not hazardous, according to DES Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management Bureau Chief Jeff Harn. DES is now trying to figure out where the foam came from.

“County staff continue to investigate the issue and are trying to determine the source of the foam,” Harn told ARLnow.com. “However, the discharge that caused the foam is no longer occurring and no source has yet been identified.”

Courtesy photo

  • novasteve

    Oh great, here comes the phosphate ban. Better buy soap nuts.

    • drax

      Enough, steve.

      Some things are bad and should be banned. That’s life.

    • nom de guerre

      FYI-Phosphate has been banned in Virginia since July 2010.

      • drax

        Funny how he didn’t even notice. Yet it’s an outrage!

        • nom de guerre

          *goes over to forums section to post thread on “libruls banning phosphates.”

  • B22201

    Free Dog Wash!

    • Charles

      Let’s see – who do we know that would treat where they live as if they were still living in the bario?

      • drax

        Because rich white people never pollute our streams.

  • novasteve

    Sorry guys, that was just me frothing over the park smoking ban suggestion.

  • Confused

    “However, the discharge that caused the foam is no longer occurring and no source has yet been identified.”

    If no source has been identified how do they know that the discharge that caused the foam is no longer occurring??

    • Ballston

      I assume that if there’s no foam upstream of the current foam mass that is floating down the stream.

  • South Awwlington

    Time to start monitoring the businesses along Four Mile and fining them if they caught polluting. Gone are the days of playing in streams as kids…in are the days of using the water as a dumping site by people who just don’t care.

    • JJ

      If anyone has been playing in that stream for the past 50 years they better get tested.

      • Kolohe

        Dogs and their people are in the stream all the time just up from there.

    • Josh S

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that I believe that the nation’s streams/rivers/waterways are actually probably in better overall condition now than they were 30-40 years ago.

      President Nixon bravely signed the Clean Water Act into existence and it is probably one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever written in the United States.

  • 350sbc

    Foam party!

    • Hank

      Untz! Untz! Untz!

  • Good Grief

    Some drop their Palmolive?

  • TJ

    Is Bobby doing laundry again? Oh Alice…


    • Becoming indifferent

      I was thinking that same thing!

      • 7-11-bum

        Me too! My favorite Brady episode.

  • a lot of sewer work has been going on in the area. Very well may be related to that.

  • nunya

    its the mighty Aphrodite!!

  • Just Me

    Bubble bath?

  • Ghostbuster

    If this foam animates and takes the form of the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man, we may be headed for a disaster of biblical proportions – real wrath of God type stuff.

    Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes… The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

    • YTK

      you forgot to add The Trolley.

    • AlexandriaMegg

      Should not have read your comment at work, was literally dying from holding in my hysteria!

    • P. Monroe

      “Tell him about the Twinkie.”

      “What about the Twinkie?”

  • Autoexec.bat

    Harris Teeter Shirlington is exacting revenge on behalf of the Crystal City location. I approve.

    • Kolohe

      When *is* the Crystal City / National Gateway location supposed to open up again?

      • WeiQiang

        Just got another discount coupon mailer from HT for the Pent Row & Shirlington locations that is good for October … I’d infer “at least another month”.

      • Josh S

        However long their consumer psychologists estimate it will take for people to forget that the entire place was recently knee-deep in sh*t.

        (PS – I”ll never be visiting the store again….)

  • Alex

    Four Mile Run can’t catch a break!

  • BluemontFred

    Sorry…I decided to take a bubble bath this morning and I may have used to much soap. I have to remember to use 100 lbs not 1000 lbs

  • nom de guerre

    My source has informed me that one of the food trucks in the area was experimenting with molecular gastronomy and was attempting to create a potato foam gnocchi recipe when things got out of hand.

    • bemused bystander

      Sam’s spudsuds?

  • Id

    Sorry, but I could not control my orgasm.

  • (another) Greg

    Those darn kids and their pranks. Consarnit! Won’t they ever stop!

  • cyclist

    FYI, cyclists were the first to see this and report it.

    • Sim City

      cuz it’s right off the nice bike connector between shirlington & Glebe. Could have just cleaned up there rather than showered

      • cyclist

        That’s what I always do anyway.

  • peter north

    we shot 3 movies today. my bad!

  • drax

    Is this at all related to the guy who died on the toilet?

    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      Too soon.

      • drax

        On this board? It’s never too soon.

    • Id

      A crappy way to die.

  • Spiel More

    Saw it this morning. Huge foam.
    I wonder if related to pool closings. I know I used to use flocculation agent (called it “Flock”) which was used to fine suspended dirt to the bottom to vacuum. If you used to much it would foam up the pool. Once had someone use wayyyy to much.
    Why someone would do it right before closing and then drain water into environment, maybe far fetched.

  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    Arlington had better widen their investigation… foam was also floating down the Potomac River as far up as Fletcher’s Cove. Thought it was styrofoam at first since the blobs were so big.

  • John Fontain

    That’s one way to clean up Four Mile Run.

  • Phosphate Phil

    “It wasn’t me” – Shaggy

  • tumblebum

    The “undocumented immigrants” (very PC) who have their own painting businesses have been using the upper 4 mile run as a disposal site for years. (obviously not all of them) I’ve seen that creek in dozens of different colors. I’m aware of only 1 time that the miscreant was identified and prosecuted.

  • DrTchock

    BREAKING NEWS: Stay Puft Marshmallow Man melts in creek.

  • teracon

    It is the return of the dreaded Sea Foam from Ocean City, Maryland.

    Fox 5 Meteorologist Tucker Barnes was in the “thick” of it…


  • Laura

    This is interesting because there were hundreds of tiny patches of foam on the Potomac this morning (upstream from Key Bridge). Why would this happen on the same day?

    • Bennett

      Thin stream of foam formed below the falls just above Chain Bridge.

  • Mary-Austin

    I saw a guy that appeared to be taking a bath in Four Mile Run by the Arlington Mill Center when I was running on the trail today.

    This looks like it was from a bigger source though.

  • Suzanne Bolton

    They may need only to look to the County Yard across the street that has an outfall across from the dog park. The have had more toxic discharges in the past.

  • Deadite


  • John

    Don’t be fooled. The 2400 swimming pools on that watershed are closing for the winter. Swimming pools are full of toxic chemicals. Including foaming algecide. For winterization, all pools are drained into our street sewers and creeks. All of that water is dumped into our storm water system. Every year. Killing most of the aquatic life in our streams. As long as there is no regulation there will be no crawfish, salamanders and very few minnows. Just wait until April, when all of those pools are drained into the system to get the neighboorhood pool ready for all you keyboard warriors for the swimming season and we read about the fish kill. And wonder what happened. WAKE UP.

  • John

    Silence is golden.

  • nom de guerre

    “Silent Spring”

  • JDP

    Return of the suds… They were back this AM, not as bad as before… tracked them up as far as the bridge on George Mason…


Subscribe to our mailing list