Arlington, VA

With much of the Arlington population confined to their homes, it’s little surprise that residents are generating more trash.

But the scale of the increase — more than 30% by weight — is straining the trash collectors, who are trying to stay on the job and stay healthy during the outbreak.

Over the weekend, Arlington County renewed its call for residents to try to limit their trash generation, if at all possible. That includes pausing any spring cleaning.

“Obviously a lot more people are home all day,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin told ARLnow. “They’re cleaning out more than usual, listening to their inner Marie Kondo as they stare at the walls and what’s piled up in front of them. They should indulge themselves with the couch and ARLnow and a few books and put off the big clean-ups for a few months.”

“The rise in trash left out for weekly collection has slowed the crews on the trucks of our contractor,” Golkin said, explaining why some residents may be seeing later than usual pickups. “[Crews] deserve great respect as they continue to do a vital job while facing increased health concerns and the other issues we’re all dealing with.”

The county has also suspended curbside bulk trash pickup and cancelled its popular spring E-CARE recycling and disposal event.

“Unfortunately, our spring 2020 E-CARE on April 18 has been canceled,” the county said. “Updates will be posted regarding an E-CARE event in the fall or later.”

Arlington’s residential trash collection serves all single-family homes, duplexes and some townhomes. Apartment and condo residents are served by private, commercial trash haulers.

The press release about the county’s call for less trash is below.

Curbside trash and recycling collection is an important service provided to ensure the health and safety of our community. Our crews play a critical role in providing these services, while balancing the same life and home challenges we all are facing during this time.

Over the last week, residential trash tonnage has increased more than 30%. The residential collection system is becoming stressed and we all need to do our part and limit the amount of trash, recycling and yard waste being placed out for collection.

To help ensure their health and safety and maintain our collection schedule, Arlington County is issuing additional guidance:

  • Please minimize setting extra bags outside the cart.
  • Keep your spring cleaning pile in your basement or garage for now.
  • Flatten your cardboard boxes to create more room in your recycling bin
  • If you have a large quantity of cardboard boxes, drop them off at one of our recycling drop-off centers.
  • Drop off glass at one of our recycling drop-off centers instead of throwing it in the trash.
  • Make an appointment and drop-off your household hazardous materials, now available Monday through Thursday (by appointment only. Call 703-228-5000 to schedule.)
  • Grasscycle your lawn clippings.

Photo courtesy Arlington County

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Good news: you’re not going to get coronavirus from the tap water. But you could cause a big clog if you don’t watch what you flush.

That’s the message from the people who keep the water running in Arlington.

The county’s Dept. of Environmental Services is upping its public outreach to join other municipal water agencies in urging people not to flush wipes or anything else that is not “pee, poo or toilet paper.”

More from DES:

Plumbing and sewer lines – kept healthy – provide vital service to any community. Now more than ever, it’s essential to have such infrastructure flowing in Arlington.

When it comes to toilets, only three things that should ever be flushed. Two are those familiar human waste products. The other is genuine toilet paper.

Flushing down anything else threatens your home’s plumbing and, farther into the line, Arlington’s sanitary sewer system.

Disposable cleaning wipes, dental floss, cigarette butts, cat litter and more should always be thrown away. Those supposedly “flushable” hygiene wipes should also never be flushed. They fail to break down and can cause massive clogs.

Even paper towels and facial tissue can create jams because of their particular composition. Throw them away. Don’t flush them.

County spokesman Peter Golkin says no major clogs have been reported in Arlington so far, but the danger remains as people continue to use wipes amid a toilet paper shortage. And that’s not to mention disinfectant wipes that are unadvisedly disposed of in the toilet.

DES is also reminding residents to avoid sending fats, oils and grease down the sink, which coats and clogs pipes.

“Folks just need to take some simple steps to protect their own plumbing and the county’s,” said Golkin. “Put a trash can in the bathroom if you don’t have one and keep an empty metal can beside the stove for fats, oils and grease. Let it cool. Throw it in the trash.”

Separately, officials are assuring residents that Arlington’s tap water is safe, even during the outbreak.

There is no risk of virus transmission through the region’s public water systems. Disinfectants used in the region’s water treatment, like chlorine, neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19. Conventional water treatment methods also use filtration.

The region’s drinking water continues to meet all safety standards established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Department of Health.

Also, a reminder: the annual spring water disinfectant switch will be happening next week as scheduled. From DES:

The District of Columbia, Arlington County and northeastern Fairfax County will clean out their tap water network starting Monday — a safe, annual process.

Service continues uninterrupted during the process, which runs from March 30 through May 4. During that time, drinking water in the may taste slightly different. But the purification process remains unchanged and the water is essentially unchanged.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Washington Aqueduct  performs the temporary disinfectant switch from chloramine to chlorine to help clean the pipes and maintain system flow. Washington Aqueduct continues to add a corrosion inhibitor during the process to reduce the potential release of lead in system pipes throughout the region.

During the cleaning, local water authorities will continually monitor the drinking water for safe chlorine levels as well as conduct system-wide flushing to enhance water quality. Concurrently, staff will start systematically flushing fire hydrants. This process is repeated nearly every spring, in the region and across the nation. Crews operating hydrants are a normal part of this routine.

This temporary cleaning often brings with it a new smell to tap water. If customers opt, they can run the cold water tap for about two minutes, use a water filter or let water sit in a container in the refrigerator to remove chlorine taste and odor.

Customers who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water should continue such methods during the temporary switch to chlorine. As always, those with special concerns should consult their health care provider.

The Washington Aqueduct is the wholesale water supplier for the District of Columbia, Arlington and northeastern Fairfax County.

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It’s not a zombie apocalypse, but surely some have wondered about the lights staying on during the coronavirus crisis.

Good news: those who generate your electricity, treat your water and collect your trash are still working, even as many Arlington residents — with the notable exception of healthcare workers, public safety personnel and grocery store employees, among others — stay at home.

There are plans for keeping these unsung heroes safe and on the job, officials say.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which is responsible for waste collection, water service, road maintenance and other critical infrastructure, says it is implementing plans drawn up for disaster situations.

“We have implemented a continuity of operational services plan (COOP) to ensure operations and critical services continue, and are practicing social distancing to protect staff, including staggering start times to avoid large groups,” DES spokeswoman Katie O’Brien tells ARLnow. “Crews are also being encouraged to follow CDC guidelines like washing hands for 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based sanitizer when water isn’t available.”

Waste collection workers are keeping their distance from one another, when possible, and wearing more protective gear, O’Brien said.

“Residential trash, recycling and yard waste curbside collection is expected to continue,” she noted. “Currently, our hauler has suspended bulk curbside collection for residential customers until further notice. This includes furniture, mattresses and any appliances larger than a standard microwave.”

To keep water infrastructure — everything from water mains to sewer lines to the county’s water treatment plant — running at a time when everyone is being encouraged to wash their hands frequently, planned maintenance involving water outages are being avoided.

DES has “limited or postponed planned water shutdowns to minimize service impacts on customers and focus our resources on maintaining our systems,” O’Brien said.

Other mitigation steps in place include modified schedules and rear boarding for ART buses, and reduced staff and schedules — but continued operations — for traffic signal maintenance and repairs, sign fabrication and repairs, markings, and meter repairs.

Dominion Energy, meanwhile, says it is prepared for situations like this.

Customers “can expect continued, reliable service,” said spokeswoman Peggy Fox. “Our crews are standing by to respond to any customer-service issues.”

That includes outages, like the one the Ballston area experienced earlier today.

“Our line workers will still be responding to service interruptions,” Fox said. “If you experience a power outage, the best way to report it is online or through our mobile app.”

On the electricity generation side, power plants are still humming and Dominion says procedures are in place to ensure employee safety and continuity.

“We are staffing our power stations to ensure we continue to provide our customers with reliable energy 24/7 [and] have adjusted our staffing plans so employees who perform the same roles are spread across different shifts or days of the week,” she said. “For employees who cannot work remotely, we are sanitizing our facilities at the end of each shift and encouraging safe hygiene practices. To limit exposure, we have restricted access to our facilities.”

As for Dominion workers who become ill with the virus, Fox said that they will be told to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“Other employees will step in to ensure essential work gets done, just as they do when a colleague goes on vacation,” she said.

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Over the course of a typical winter, Arlington County crews fill thousands of potholes on local roads.

The winter of 2019-2020 is not typical, however. Crews have thus far only filled 455 potholes around the county’s 26 square miles, as the unusually mild winter has resulted and far less of the thawing and refreezing that’s responsible for pothole formation.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which is responsible for road paving and maintenance, tweeted about the lack of potholes yesterday.

“Needless to say, Arlington roads are in better-than-usual shape for March because of the minimal effects of this winter,” DES spokesman Peter Golkin tells ARLnow. “We still have more than two weeks to go until official spring so perhaps we’re jinxing things. Snow is obviously possible in March and storms have happened even in April.”

“To keep things in perspective, we generally mobilize for 18 to 20 snow events per season,” Golkin continued. “So far we’ve prepared for four. Definitely beats a blizzard if you have to choose. When crews don’t need to fill potholes, they can take care of other road issues ahead of long-term paving.”

Paving season in Arlington is expected to start at the end of March and run into November.

“Weather-permitting, many streets will have that new surface smell soon,” said Golkin.

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You’re probably not taking Fido to play in the creek in sub-freezing weather, but you’ll want to nix any such plans at the Shirlington dog park for the next couple of days.

Arlington County crews braved freezing weather on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to repair an 8-inch sewer line that failed and sent sewage spewing into Four Mile Run, near the Barcroft neighborhood, for the second week in a row.

“The Department of Environmental Services advises to avoid all contact with Four Mile Run south of 7th Street due to a sanitary sewage release,” said an Arlington Alert message on Sunday afternoon. “Blockage was removed from the same pipe after a release last week. Crews on scene investigating pipe’s condition.”

As of Tuesday morning, the department said repairs had been completed. All people and pets, however, should avoid Four Mile Run downstream of 7th Street S. until at least Wednesday night.

As a result of the sewage release, a planned MLK, Jr. Day of Service trash cleanup along the stream has been postponed until Saturday, Feb. 1.

Photo via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services

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Local listservs and Nextdoor networks in Arlington have been abuzz over high water bills, but officials say there’s a very simple explanation for it.

Many residents — including at least one ARLnow staffer — saw a 40%+ jump in their most recently quarterly water bills.

“I’m seeing on NextDoor many people complaining about high Q4 water/sewer bills,” Noah, a local resident, said in a tip to ARLnow earlier this month. “Ours for example indicated a 50% increase in daily consumption over same period last year.”

“Many, many Cherrydale residents got enormous water bills this quarter double and triple their normal bills,” said June, another Arlington resident. “Our listserv is loaded with comments.”

But Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says it has not found any systemic problem leading to high water bills. Instead, officials suggested, an extended drought led to more outdoor watering and thus higher water usage by those with yards and outdoor vegetation.

“From what we’ve seen in our data so far, there was some increase in usage in the September time frame,” Mike Moon, the Chief Operating Officer for DES, told ARLnow this morning. “We attribute that mostly to the drought… Sometimes there are issues with meters, [but we’re] not seeing any systemic issues this time around.”

DES says it saw a 14% increase in water usage in September, as the drought intensified.

In an email to ARLnow, one local resident wondered whether online forums were leading people to draw false conclusions about the higher bills.

“Can you investigate the Arlington buzz about unusually high water bills?” asked Betsey. “Places it’s been discussed [include] Ashton Heights, Cherrydale, Lyon Village, and a few complaints from Bluemont.”

“Either it’s a real problem,” she continued, “OR the power of the Internet is breeding a false problem.”

statement to water customers released by DES is below, after the jump.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Trash Collection CancelledUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]

Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]

Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]

Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]

Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]

New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]

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When given a daunting task, like vacuuming up the leaves in front of every home in the county, one might be tempted to try to rush through it as quickly as possible.

But for one of Arlington County’s leaf vacuum crews, helping out residents and getting the job done right is the priority.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a resident of the Rock Spring neighborhood near Yorktown High School posted on social media that a leaf collection crew was helping an elderly neighbor rake the leaves from her yard to the curb, where they could be vacuumed.

“Hats [off] to these guys,” she said, in a post that scored more than 100 likes on Twitter.

The resident, Kathie K., tells ARLnow that there’s even more to the story.

“I went to get coffee… as I was pulling out I noticed someone in a work uniform raking a pile of leaves on my street. He gave me a big wave as I drove by,” she recounts. “When I pulled back into my cul-de-sac he and the truck had made their way around the circle and were now at the end.”

The crew of two were now working in the yard of two older sisters who live together, going above and beyond even what was seen in the photo, Kathie said. They were raking and talking to one of the sisters, as well as a father and son who were out raking and had brought the crew some water.

“The leaf collector that gave me a big wave was in their yard raking leaves. Not just on the curb, he was all the way to her front door raking leaves to the street. She was helping, they were all chatting,” she continued. “I took a picture because the guys were just being kind. They changed my day and I’m sure everyone else who has seen the picture. I thought it was a nice way to start the holiday season.”

Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services, which handles leaf collection and other public works in the county, tells ARLnow that leaf collection crews are not required to help residents rake, but are often happy to help someone in need.

In this case, Golkin says driver Michael Hendricks, a permanent staffer in the Solid Waste Bureau and former Arlington Public Schools bus driver, and veteran seasonal crewperson Anthony Leftwich decided to help out — despite having a schedule to keep as they worked to wrap up the first leaf collection pass around the county by the end of the next day.

Hendricks “hopes someone would do the same for his own grandmother,” Golkin said.

With the second leaf collection pass now underway as of Monday, Hendricks offered some tips for residents.

“Try to keep cars away from the piles and don’t pile near cars to make it an easier reach for the vacuum hose,” he said. Also, Golkin noted, dry leaves can be a potential fire hazard when vehicles with hot catalytic converters park above them.

Leaf collection season is set to end on Dec. 18. That may seem like a relief to the crews, but Golkin said getting out into the residential neighborhoods and interacting with residents is usually a highlight of the season.

“The leaf crews especially enjoy sweeping through neighborhoods on Saturdays because kids are home from school and love watching the truck from a safe distance,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.

The county posted on its website that intends to “rebuild 18th Street South between Fern and Eads Streets in order to continue the existing South Hayes Street protected bike lane further east.”

Designs on the website show the current unprotected bike lanes being converted to protected lanes without a loss of vehicle travel lanes. Additional pedestrian-safety upgrades are also planned.

A group of residents advocating for eliminating single occupant car commuting at Amazon’s future headquarters celebrated the news. On Twitter, the group thanked DES and wrote the planned infrastructure was “GOOD NEWS!”

https://twitter.com/CarFreeHQ2/status/1191824320194060288?s=20

“The project will improve the safety of the South Fern Street and 18th Street South intersection by removing the southbound right turn slip lane and building curb extensions on all four corners of the intersection to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,” said Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokesman Eric Balliet.

“It will also extend the existing protected bike lanes on South Hayes Street (west of the Fern St/18th St intersection) along 18th Street from South Fern to South Eads Street,” he added.

The project will include features for pedestrians, like high visibility crosswalks. Per the county website:

Additionally, the intersection of 18th Street South and South Fern Street will be rebuilt to decrease crossing distances and decrease the existing impervious area. This will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety at the intersection.

The project will also add stormwater retention, replace a water main and upgrade the streetscape, helping improve the connection between the core of Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The work is part of the 18th Street S. Complete Streets project and is expected to cost the county $5.3 million, which will be paid for by funds earmarked in the Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 and a Crystal City transportation infrastructure fund.

Near Amazon’s HQ2, cycling advocates have also successfully pushed for more protected bike lanes.

Arlington first added plastic bollards and moved out the parking area along S. Hayes Street in 2014 to physically protect cyclists from cars. Since then, DES has tested out more protected bike lanes, adding two in Ballston and Courthouse.

However, transit advocates have pushed for the county to pick up the pace, citing the dangers of cars blocking unprotected lanes which forces cyclists into dangerous, busy roads. In addition to cyclists, bike lanes are also used by e-scooter riders.

Balliet said the department expects construction on the 18th Street S. project to begin next fall.

Images via Arlington County & Google Maps 

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Last week’s major water main break near Chain Bridge is not done disrupting traffic.

Arlington County crews are planning to close N. Glebe Road again tonight, between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road, for more repairs. The work is intended to “restore full water system capacity and redundancy following the large water main emergency of last Friday,” according to a press release.

The closure is expected to start “no earlier than 7 p.m.” tonight (Wednesday). The road is expected to reopen by Thursday night’s rush hour “barring complications.”

More from the county:

Throughout the work, northbound traffic on Route 123 will only be able to turn left onto Chain Bridge. Traffic crossing Chain Bridge from the District will have to turn right onto Route 123.

Within a few hours of the Friday break, crews were able to isolate and stabilize the break and restore pressure to the County’s drinking water system. This week’s work is required to repair the 36-inch transmission main segment, which was installed in 1944.

The repairs are not expected to have any impact on customers’ water service.

Permanent roadway infrastructure repairs including guard rail replacement and drainage improvements will be conducted in the coming weeks. These repairs will be scheduled to minimize traffic impacts.

Glebe Road is a state route but Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services has taken the lead in repairs in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, the cold and changing temperatures have raised the specter of additional water main breaks. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services is encouraging locals to call them if they suspect a water main break somewhere in the county.

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