A long-term chemical leak at a dry cleaning business near Fairlington has caused an odor in some homes — and concerns among residents about their health.
State environmental regulators are wrapping up their review of the spill from Fairlington Cleaners, located in a low-slung shopping center at 1712 Fern Street in Alexandria. According to documents, toxic chemicals leaked from the business into the area’s soil and groundwater, which has affected homes across the Arlington border in Fairlington.
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has spent years working with TBR Associates, the owner of the Fairlington Shopping Center along N. Quaker Lane, to evaluate conditions at the business. With a final report in hand, they’re planning a meeting tonight (Monday) to discuss their findings at 7 p.m. at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).
Previous managers of the cleaners used equipment that regularly leaked fluid containing tetrachloroethene, a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning that’s linked to a variety of adverse health impacts, prompting concerns among residents of the nearby Fairlington Glen and Fairlington Meadows condo communities.
The DEQ ultimately determined that most people living in the area weren’t facing any serious health risks, after testing about 50 homes in those neighborhoods. Though the chemical has impacted the area’s groundwater, the homes are hooked up to municipal water lines, meaning the chemical would only impact people if its vapors wafted into the houses.
Regulators did find that five homes were contaminated with those vapors at potentially serious levels, and the shopping center’s owner installed fan systems to address the issue. However, a review of data collected from the homes by the state health department concluded that there is a “low or extremely low” risk of cancer for anyone breathing in the fumes and determined that the chemical does not pose a health hazard to the larger community.
In a letter to the Fairlington Glen and Meadows homeowners associations, the DEQ now says it’s ready to install four new, permanent groundwater monitoring wells in the area and set up some sort of “legally binding mechanism” to ensure the owner of the shopping center continues to test the area for any potential contamination from the chemicals.
Some neighbors, however, want to see regulators get considerably more aggressive in pressing TBR to do more. Glen residents Barbara Collier and Ellen McDermott have been distributing a flier arguing that “we still do not have an active picture of the plume or chemical levels under our homes,” according to a copy of the note provided to ARLnow.
They wrote that the state testing only “gives a snapshot in time” of the contaminants, and the chemicals could continue to spread, even though the DEQ argued in its report that TPR and its contractor, Engineering Consulting Services, have managed to stem the flow of the chemicals.
Collier and McDermott are also concerned that ECS hasn’t “used the best technologies” to review contamination in the area before submitting data to DEQ, arguing that their methods are “questionable.” They note that they’re suspicious of the contractor in general, considering that the DEQ cited the company back in 2006 for improperly disposing waste water as it tried to clean up chemicals at the dry cleaning site.
“This matter has dragged on for so long that by the time there is any ‘resolution,’ we also may be well past the statute of limitations for any legal action to fix the damage done,” Collier and McDermott wrote. “This meeting is the last chance to push the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to be more aggressive.”
DEQ spokesman Greg Bilyeu told ARLnow the agency has no timetable set for any follow-up actions following the meeting, but hopes to use the gathering as a way of “sharing more information, hearing from the community and answering questions right now.”
“Information gathered from the meeting and afterwards will be included in DEQ’s future considerations and actions,” Bilyeu wrote.
Trista Nealon and some of her neighbors thought they were doing the right thing when they forced their way into the neighborhood pool to rescue some wayward ducklings — but now, their condo association is threatening them with criminal charges for their efforts.
Nealon tells ARLnow that one of her fellow condo owners in Fairlington Glen noticed seven ducklings stuck in the neighborhood’s community pool back on May 10 and she decided to go ask the pool’s manager if she could get in and help them leave.
When Nealon was rebuffed, she and her neighbors tried contacting a member of the Wildlife Rescue League to come help — again, they had no luck. So a group went back over to the pool, unlocked its gate by reaching in through a well-positioned mail slot, and fished out the baby ducks.
Nealon says a woman accosted the group at the time and threatened to call the police, before storming off, but she otherwise didn’t think much of the encounter. Yet when last Thursday (May 31) rolled around, Nealon and a few other neighbors involved in the rescue effort received a letter from attorneys representing the Fairlington Glen Council of Co-Owners informing her that the group’s Board of Directors “is currently considering whether to press charges or take other enforcement action.”
“I am a [27-year] Glen resident owner, and it is ridiculous that I am being threatened with criminal charges for being a Good Samaritan and saving baby ducks,” Nealon wrote in an email. She shared a copy of the letter with ARLnow and also posted it to a Facebook group for Fairlington residents.
Kristen Buck, an associate with the firm Rees Broome, said in the letter that the condo board felt a lock around the pool was damaged in the process of this rescue effort, and she’s requesting the people involved to pay the board $100 each to help reimburse the cost of replacing it.
“Such a good faith payment may influence whether the Board decides to press charges or take other action,” Buck wrote.
Nealon insists that no one damaged any property over the course of this episode, and she finds Buck’s suggestion that the neighbors should have simply called the county’s animal control to be without merit, given the “imminent danger” she felt the ducklings were in at the time.
Buck declined comment on the matter, as did Thora Stanwood, president of the condo association’s Board of Directors.
But, in a newsletter distributed by the condo association, there is a reference to a “break in” at the Fairlington Glen pool.
The newsletter claims a police report was filed about the incident, and that condo association’s Board of Directors “consulted with legal counsel about the recovery of damage from the break in.” County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says she has no record of any police report being filed from the area that day.
Nealon isn’t sure what she’ll do next, but she at least plans to attend the condo association’s next meeting to protest her treatment, and she doesn’t expect she’ll be alone.
Her post on the Fairlington Appreciation Society Facebook page about the incident already has 125 likes and dozens of supportive comments.
Photo courtesy of Trista Nealon
Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that police were dispatched at 9:49 p.m. to the 4200 block of 35th Street S. “for a report of a loud party.”
Via social media, residents described the gathering as a karaoke party for toddlers, held by parents in a condo parking lot. Two police cars arrived but no action was taken by officers, residents said.
The call to police prompted widespread indignation on a Facebook page for Fairlington residents, with many calling it “ridiculous.”
“Whichever of you suggested to call the police on a karaoke party before 10 p.m. on a Friday during [Memorial Day weekend], you must be a pleasure at parties,” said one.
“Sorry my child likes to play outside,” said another. “Thank you for calling the cops on us instead of walking over and asking us to turn down the volume on a kids’ ‘fashion show,’ cowardly neighbor. You’re a peach.”
“You’re a joke,” said yet another. “Say hi to your cats.”
The posts were later taken down by a page administrator, who urged greater civility among its thousands of members.
In an earlier post, which was also taken down after attracting numerous replies, a resident complained about noise from the party. (It’s unclear if the poster was the same resident who called police.)
“Appreciate it’s a Friday night, but our neighbors have decided to have a (loud) party (complete with karaoke) in our common court area outside,” she said. “Are there rules for noise at this hour? I’ve never had neighbors like this in Fairlington and we’ve lived here for 14 years.”
No citations were issued by police and the officers who arrived on scene did not even file a report, according to Savage.
“The minor incident was resolved and no police report was filed,” she said.
Region Sets Heat Record — The National Weather Service reports that Arlington and surrounding areas set a heat record yesterday. The temperature at Reagan National Airport reached 91 degrees, which tops the previous record of 89, set in 1930. [Twitter]
Co-Working Space Opening Soon — TechSpace, a new co-working space, will hold a grand opening event and happy hour in Ballston on May 15. The 20,000 square foot office will open in the Two Liberty Center building (4075 Wilson Blvd) across the street from the under-construction Ballston Quarter Mall. [PR Newswire]
Playground Design Meeting — County staff will present the two concepts for the new playground at Rosslyn Highlands Park and take feedback from the public at a meeting tonight. It takes place in the library at Key Elementary School at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
Theodore Roosevelt Island Survey — The National Park Service is seeking feedback via a survey for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island, including possible bridge and comfort station upgrades and the addition of a boat dock. Today is the last day to submit comments. [National Park Service]
Reduced Parking in Fairlington — As the Fairlington Park Project enters its final stages, 19 parking spaces will be occupied for construction equipment staging. Visitors should plan ahead for the parking challenges.
New Marymount President — Dr. Irma Becerra has been chosen as the new Marymount University president and will take over the position on July 1. She comes to the school from St. Thomas University. [Marymount University, InsideNova]
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) The Fairlington 5K Run and Walk tomorrow will raise money for an Arlington girl with a rare, degenerative disease.
In 2011, Ellie McGinn was diagnosed with LBSL (leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation), which causes impaired nervous system functioning that can lead to muscle stiffness, tremors, weakness, poor balance and difficulty coordinating body movements.
The nonprofit organization “A Cure for Ellie” has been set up in her name to raise awareness of LBSL and funding for research. McGinn appeared on the Today Show last year for her and her parents’ work in their search for a cure.
Tomorrow’s non-competitive run/walk in Fairlington aims to promote general health and physical fitness while also supporting McGinn, who is a third-grader at Abingdon Elementary School. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at Abingdon Elementary (3035 S. Abingdon Street) and registration is $35 for adults, $20 for children ages 6-16 and free for children five and under.
Arlington County police will oversee the following road closures from approximately 7-9:30 a.m. to accommodate the race:
- Abington Street between S. 29th Street and S. 36th Street
- 36th Street between S. 34th Street up to, and including, Stafford Street
- Wakefield loop off S. 34th Street
- Utah Street between S. 32nd Street and S. 34th Street
Photo via A Cure for Ellie
The incident happened around 2 p.m. and initial reports suggested the man was staring at the school when spotted by the witness. He drove off before police arrived.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2018-04120144, 28th Road S. at S. Abingdon Street. At approximately 2:06 p.m. on April 12, police were dispatched to the report of an indecent exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was walking in the area when she observed an unknown male suspect masturbating inside his vehicle. The suspect fled the area prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his 30’s. He was driving a blue sedan. The investigation is ongoing.
“All cases of indecent exposure are assigned to the Special Victims Unit for follow-up investigation and they will work to determine if the case is linked to any other reports in Arlington County,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com.
Arlington Woman Killed in Freak Accident — Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident and world class triathlete, was killed when the car she was a passenger in struck a deer on I-85 in South Carolina Monday morning. Viviani, 68, was pronounced dead at the scene. [Greenville News]
Arlington Man Killed in Fiery Crash — A 32-year-old Arlington man, Antwuan Barnes, was killed early Sunday in Martinsburg, W. Va. Police say the driver of a car in which he was passenger tried to take a turn too fast and slid into a tree, shearing the vehicle in two and causing it to burst into flames. [Martinsburg Journal, MetroNews]
Fairlington Condo Association Rolls Out Trash Cans — The Fairlington Villages condo association has rolled out dozens of large black trash bins for residents to deposit their garbage. The move follows a series of raccoon attacks in north Fairlington and is intended to discourage the nocturnal critters from taking up residence. Following the roll out, the association suspended its raccoon trapping campaign. [Fairlington Villages]
Crystal City Building Wraps, Explained — Washington Post columnist John Kelly has an explanation for why property owner JBG Smith commissioned a series of four colorful building wraps to spruce up some of its older office buildings in Crystal City. Not mentioned in the article: that the neighborhood is a top contender for Amazon’s HQ2. [Washington Post]
Thousands Ticketed for Driving Slow in Left Lane — “Thousands of people have been fined since Virginia implemented a law setting penalties for driving too slowly in the left lane of a highway… from July 1, 2017, through April 3, more than 16,000 people were cited under various portions of the law.” [NBC Washington]
Late Night Hot Pot — Chinese hot pot restaurant Mala Tang has extended its hours until 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, according to a press release.
Favola Weighs in on Country Club Tax Bill — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) said in an op-ed that Gov. Ralph Northam should veto a bill lowering the taxes of Arlington country clubs. She added: “If the country clubs are really interested in preserving open space, Virginia has a successful land preservation tax-credit program. It gives financial incentives to landowners who agree to keep their open space undeveloped, in perpetuity, while ensuring that the space is maintained for everyone’s benefit.” [Washington Post]
Fatal Motorcycle Crash Near Fairlington — A 34-year-old Haymarket man died after he crashed his motorcycle on King Street near Fairlington early Friday morning. Residents said on a local online group that a large group of motorcyclists was riding down King Street at the time of the crash. [Patch, WTOP]
New Ballston Restaurant Serving Nepalese Dishes — Urban Tandoor, which opened last week in Ballston, is serving Tibetan dumplings — or momos — in addition to the traditional Indian fare that makes up most of the menu. [Eater]
Dance Party on Streets of Clarendon — An impromptu group song and dance performance broke out on a Clarendon sidewalk after last call early Saturday morning. [Twitter]
Another Successful E-CARE — Arlington’s E-CARE recycling and disposal event over the weekend collected 83,208 pounds of “household hazards” over the weekend. [Twitter]
Hundreds Give Blood in Ballston — “Hundreds lined up at the Washington Capitals practice facility to donate blood for Inova Blood Donor Services. The drive, held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, was one of several sports-themed drives that Inova holds every year, teaming up with local sports teams to promote blood donation in a fun way.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
According to residents, heavily-armed police officers raided a home on the 2800 block of S. Buchanan Street, in north Fairlington, around 8 a.m. Saturday. On the Nextdoor social networking site, neighbors described a scene that seemed like it was out of a movie.
“It was 8:30 a.m. when I heard the agents who surrounded the place with assault rifles yelling everyone to stay inside, and with a bullhorn instructing the residents of the unit next door to go to the basement,” one wrote. “Steady stream of people going in and out now. Very scary way to start the day.”
Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that a man was arrested but did not initially detail the circumstances involved. Monday morning, after this article was published, police issued a press release (below) announcing that they had arrested a suspect in a hit-and-run crash that happened last week in Rosslyn.
The Arlington County Police Department has arrested a suspect for his involvement in an assault in the 1400 block of Lee Highway. Kevin Doherty, 46, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony and two counts of Malicious Wounding. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility without bond.
At approximately 6:43 p.m. on March 13, 2018, officers were dispatched to a hit and run collision in the 1400 block of Lee Highway. Upon arrival, it was determined that a male victim was traveling on foot when he was struck by an unknown vehicle. The male victim was transported to a local hospital. The striking vehicle did not remain on scene.
During the course of the investigation, Homicide/Robbery Unit detectives developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews. Members of the Emergency Response Team took the suspect into custody without incident at a residence in the Fairlington neighborhood on the morning of March 17, 2018.
This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Detective C. Riccio at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
There was no further explanation for the firearm charge or the second malicious wounding charge.
“This is an ongoing criminal investigation and, at this time, there are no additional details for release beyond the information in the press release,” Savage said in response to an ARLnow.com inquiry.
Separately, on Friday afternoon, a police tactical team arrested two people at the Inn of Rosslyn motel. Savage said that officers were executing a search warrant but was unable to provide additional details.
— Daniel Ahn (@danielahn31) March 16, 2018
File photo (top)
As of 7:30 p.m., Dominion reported 14,663 customers without power in Arlington. An hour earlier, it appeared that the numbers were finally dropping, but thanks to continued strong winds it has, in fact, gone up.
A Dominion outage map showed that a large swath of residential North Arlington and a significant portion of the Fairlington neighborhood was without power as the sun started to set.
Across the D.C. region, nearly 600,000 were in the dark as of early evening.
Arlington County Police say they’ve responded to more than 250 calls for service since this morning, including 66 calls for trees down.
Since 7 AM, our dedicated officers have responded to over 250 calls for service. Those calls include the following related to the storm:
Trees down = 66
Traffic signal outages = 17
Traffic issues = 53
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 3, 2018
To help with the cleanup, which is expected to take at least a few days, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency.
“The order is designed to help Virginia mitigate any damage caused by high winds and to streamline the process that the Commonwealth uses to provide assistance to communities impacted,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
A High Wind Warning remains in effect until 6 a.m. Gusty winds are expected to continue overnight as the nor’easter makes its way north and pummels New England.
The National Weather Service says it clocked a wind gust of 71 miles per hour at Dulles International Airport earlier today. NWS is urging those in the D.C. area to remain vigilant as the winds continue to gust.
Widespread power outages are occurring. Travel is dangerous, especially for high profile vehicles, and motorists need to be aware of rapidly changing road conditions due to the potential of downed trees and power lines. Pedestrians will face very hazardous conditions, and need to be aware of wind-borne projectiles. People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches. If possible, remain in the lower levels of your homes during the windstorm, and avoid windows. If you use a portable generator, follow manufacturer’s instructions and do not use inside homes, garages, or apartments.
More local weather impacts via social media, after the jump.
— Warren Dahlstrom (@wdahlstrom) March 2, 2018
#Windmageddon damage pics from around @ArlingtonVA. These pictures are coming in from all over the county. This #BombCyclone is no #BombShell! Stay indoors and never approach downed power lines. pic.twitter.com/oUVCDQEJyg
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) March 2, 2018
— Jose B. Collazo (@josebcollazo) March 2, 2018
— Mimi Yeh (@MeemersVa) March 2, 2018
— Megan Lynch (@MrsMeganLynch) March 2, 2018
3:15p: These winds are absolutely relentless & STILL gusting to 60 mph in the DMV. National Airport had its highest sustained wind yet at 3p, 44 mph – which is tropical-storm force, with gusts to 59 mph. This is why we trees keep tumbling down. More info: https://t.co/4N8WAR7XIW
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) March 2, 2018
Check out the wind blowing this plane as it takes off at DCA pic.twitter.com/yiIFS06T2e
— Matt Ackland (@mattacklandfox5) March 2, 2018
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) March 2, 2018
Registration is open for Rep. Don Beyer’s (D) community forum in Fairlington later this month on helicopter noise.
Beyer will host the forum on January 16 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Abingdon Elementary School (3035 S. Abingdon Street), as part of a study he added to last year’s Defense Authorization Act that passed Congress.
Anyone wishing to attend must register online.
“The provision was proposed by Rep. Beyer in response to frequent complaints from constituents about excess noise from military helicopters,” organizers wrote. “It directs DOD to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.”
Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).
Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.
For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.
Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:
- Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
- Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
- Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
- Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
- Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.
“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”
Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.
The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
The amphitheater at Fairlington Park is set to be replaced by a playground in the park’s final phase of renovations.
The final phase for the park at 3308 S. Stafford Street includes a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups, outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
It marks the completion of a project that began in 2010 with the first round of renovations to the park. The Arlington County Board will vote on the final phase at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
During construction, the athletic field would be closed. County staff said they are “working with the Fairlington Creative Preschoolers Program and Fairlington Cooperative Playgroup to identify other spaces in the park that can be used for children’s play while the new playground is being constructed.”
“The outdoor amenities for Fairlington Park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” staff wrote in a report on the project. “Through meetings with program staff and feedback during the public engagement, it was determined that the existing amphitheater does not get much use. Rather than replace the amphitheater, it was determined that it will be removed as part of the project to make additional room for the playground.”
The Board will vote on whether to award a contract worth just over $1.9 million for the park renovations, with just over $190,000 in contingency for change orders. Staff recommended approval.
Several lanes of King Street are blocked near Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood due to a crash involving an Alexandria DASH bus.
At least three vehicles, including the bus, appear to have been involved in the crash, at the intersection of King Street and Menokin Drive, between I-395 and the Bradlee Shopping Center.
So far, there is no word on injuries, although numerous ambulances and fire trucks from Alexandria and Arlington responded to the scene following the crash.
Voting is underway among some Fairlington residents on whether new sound walls should be added as part of the I-395 Express Lanes project.
Ballots have been mailed out to some neighborhood residents on whether sound barriers should be installed to mitigate the noise from the extended High Occupancy Toll lanes. The toll lanes will be extended for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to the vicinity of Eads Street in Arlington, near the Pentagon.
The first round of ballots went out to residents in the north of the neighborhood in late September.
But Guy Land, president of the Fairlington Citizens Association, told ARLnow it was his understanding that a second round of ballots were mailed out earlier this month as less than 50 percent of the first round were returned. The results of the second round of balloting will be final, regardless of turnout.
AECOM Engineering Company is the contractor behind the sound walls, and is running the vote. An AECOM spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
In a presentation to FCA last year, the Virginia Department of Transportation said approximately 4.7 miles of highway in Arlington is eligible for the sound barriers, in addition to 3.4 miles in Alexandria.
Residents are eligible to vote based on their proximity to the proposed walls, and the noise the highway creates. Renters vote as well as homeowners, although the votes of owners have a higher weight.
FCA’s November newsletter detailed some of the concerns residents have with the sound barriers.
“The proposed walls are 25 feet high, which will impact sight lines and sunlight for residents on lower floors,” the newsletter reads. “The walls also require 10 feet of clear space on either side, which will require the destruction of a fair number of trees and shrubs around the neighborhood perimeter. And the walls themselves may only provide five decibels of noise reduction, according to designers.”
Image via VDOT presentation