Arlington, VA

(Updated on 09/09/19) A Metrobus with a chemical leak that caused first responders to hospitalize the driver last week sickened a second driver after being placed back in service prematurely, union officials say.

An Arlington County Fire Department hazmat team responded to the Pentagon bus bay Thursday morning after the driver on Metrobus number 6360 reporting feeling sick and smelling a chemical odor.

“I proceeded on to 395 taking the Seminary Road exit to the HOV. As I proceeded that’s when the smell got stronger,” wrote the driver in a statement obtained by ARLnow. “As I am nearing the Pentagon, the smell continues to get stronger and a passenger begins coughing.”

The driver reported that passengers ran off the bus at Pentagon due to the “awful smell” and that she had a headache and was feeling a pain in her chest. When first responders arrived, she wrote, “I tried to explain the situation and then passed out.”

First responders said at the time they didn’t find anything hazardous on the bus, but did transport the driver to Virginia Hospital Center. A Metro spokesperson told ARLnow that they were not aware of a second problem after the morning incident.

“The bus was immediately shut off and taken out of service,” said WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly. “Upon inspection, an exhaust leak was identified and repairs made before the bus returned to service that evening. Metro did not receive any additional complaints that night and no further health issues have been substantiated.”

However, the union representing Metro employees, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, says a contracted bus garage in Lorton released the bus later that afternoon without fixing the problem — causing a second bus driver to feel ill.

“When leaving the yard I was coughing hard off fumes, and during the route passengers were also coughing,” the second driver said, according to a copy of the report obtained by ARLnow. (On Monday, a WMATA spokeswoman said they had not received a copy of the report.)

Union spokesman Brian Wivell said the afternoon driver is seeing a doctor and the morning driver visited the hospital again Monday for “follow-up work.” Another union representative said the morning driver “wasn’t in good condition at all” on Thursday and Friday and remained out of work Monday.

“We demand that Transdev respond to the safety concerns of its workers,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said of the French company, to which Metro outsourced the management of the garage last year.

The union, which also bid on the contract, disputed Metro’s assertion that the garage contract saved money, and accused the transit agency of union busting. Since then, ATU has been locked in a bitter battle with Transdev over pay and working conditions, which recently boiled as members voted to authorize a strike.

“They’ve been raising alarm bells for months, flagging buses that have issues, and now a worker has gone to the hospital,” Jackson said of the Lorton garage. “This is the human cost of this company’s profits.”

Transdev did not respond to requests for comment.

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An office building in Virginia Square has been evacuated after a reported chemical spill in the building.

Firefighters — including hazmat teams and medics — responded to the Ballston Gateway building at 3865 Wilson Blvd around 1:45 p.m., for a report of up to 20 people suffering medical symptoms after a coolant tower leaked chemicals into the building’s penthouse.

The building was evacuated amid a large fire department response, which is currently blocking at least one westbound lane of Wilson Blvd.

Some office workers on lower floors of the building have since been let back in. First responders on the scene radioed fire dispatch to report only a couple of people with minor symptoms, including eye irritation and nausea. There’s no word yet on which chemical might have leaked.

Thus far there has been no report of anyone being taken to the hospital.

The office building is home to a number of companies, including high-profile Arlington startup ThreatConnect.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report

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One person was taken to the hospital after a hazmat incident at the Pentagon’s bus bay this morning.

Arlington County firefighters, including a hazmat team, were called to the bus terminal outside the Pentagon around 9 a.m. for a report of the driver of a Metrobus having medical symptoms after smelling a chemical odor on the bus.

A police officer also reported similar symptoms, according to scanner traffic. The officer was treated on the scene and released, but the driver was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for evaluation. The driver was reported to be in good condition, Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant said.

Firefighters did not find anything hazardous on the bus.

“Crews believe there might’ve been a refrigerant leak on Metrobus that caused a couple people to feel ill,” O’Bryant told ARLnow. “[The] bus was shut down, and no dangerous readings were found when crews ran meters through the bus.”

Shortly after the bus driver was transported, ACFD turned the scene over to WMATA.

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) An SUV wound up in Four Mile Run creek in Bluemont Park this morning, prompting a hazmat response to contain a fuel spill.

The crash happened shortly before noon, near a parking lot adjacent to the intersection of N. Manchester Street and 4th Street N. It’s unclear how exactly the crash happened.

No injuries were reported. A woman could be seen sitting on the ground near the crash scene, being interviewed by police.

Arlington County firefighters placed booms in the creek to try to contain fuel from the SUV, some of which spilled into the creek and was visible as a sheen on the water.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Losing Big Office Tenant — “BAE Systems Inc. is moving its headquarters to Falls Church as part of a consolidation of its Northern Virginia office space… The move will also further ding Arlington County’s office vacancy rate, which at the end of 2017 was 20.6 percent.” [Washington Business Journal]

Hazmat Situation at Kaiser Permanente — Arlington County firefighters responded to a hazardous materials incident at Kaiser Permanente in Falls Church yesterday. Five people were evaluated by medics and, of them, two were transported to the hospital. [WJLA, Twitter, Twitter]

Red Top Development Groundbreaking Nears — “The Shooshan Co. has teamed up with Trammell Crow Residential on the first phase of its planned Red Top Cab site redevelopment in Clarendon, with groundbreaking slated for early next year. The partners closed Sept. 29 on their acquisition from The Red Top Cab Co. founder Neal Nichols of several parcels along Irving and Hudson streets for a listed consideration amount of nearly $28.2 million, according to Arlington County’s Recorder of Deeds.” [Washington Business Journal]

RIP Lance Newman and Tim Wise — Two notable Arlingtonians have died: “Tim Wise, the longtime president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, died Friday in Fredericksburg after a 10-month battle with cancer and heart trouble… Lance Newman, one of four black students who in February 1959 began attending a previously all-white middle school in Arlington… had died after a short illness.” [InsideNova]

ACSO Launches Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign — “Breast cancer hits close to home for the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, which has launched a campaign to raise awareness about early detection and preventative care. Over the last six years, two employees at the county’s sheriff’s office have been diagnosed with breast cancer.” [WUSA 9]

Forum Planned to Discuss Accessory Dwellings — “A forum looking at current regulations related to accessory-dwelling units in Arlington will be held on Monday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Central Library. Speakers will discuss how changes made to the county’s housing ordinances in 2017 impact the regulatory process, and will look at whether further changes are needed.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Ricin Case Update — “Letters sent to the White House and the Pentagon did not contain a finished form of ricin, law enforcement officials said Wednesday, but did contain a primitive form or precursor… A man was arrested in Logan, Utah, on Wednesday in connection with [the] suspicious letters.” [NBC News, NBC News]

Candidates Call for Speedier Lee Highway Planning — “Indications are pointing to redevelopment of significant portions of the Lee Highway corridor through Arlington beginning to gather steam. But is the Arlington County government going to be left behind as the process grinds on? The two candidates for County Board say the local government needs to get moving on its efforts to lead a comprehensive effort in helping plan the corridor’s future.” [InsideNova]

GMU ‘No Scooter Zone’ Nixed — George Mason University “recognizes the popularity of the scooters, so it is softening the message, [spokesman Buzz] McClain said. ‘I think the ‘no scooter zone’ sign got the attention of a lot of people, a little exclamatory. So we’re gonna tone down the messaging and say, ‘park the scooters over by the bikes,’ and that’s it.'” [NBC Washington]

Bistro 1521 Reviewed — Washington Post food critic Tim Carman gave a mostly positive review to Bistro 1521, the Filipino restaurant on N. Glebe Road in Ballston. [Washington Post]

Tonight: Family Film Showing in Clarendon — “Join Market Common Clarendon each Thursday in October starting at 6:30 p.m. for a FREE family-friendly movie on The Loop! Pre-movie fun begins at 4:30 with face painting and balloon twisting and free popcorn and candy from 6-8 p.m.” [ARLnow Events]

Teachers Endorse Kanninen, de Ferranti — The Arlington Education Association PAC has endorsed Democratic candidate Matt de Ferranti for Arlington County Board and incumbent Barbara Kanninen for School Board. The PAC represents Arlington teachers. [Twitter, Twitter, Arlington Education Association]

Domestic Violence Awareness Month Kickoff — “Project PEACE is hosting Kate Ranta, a local domestic and gun violence survivor… for a community conversation about sex, violence and the Arlington community. The event takes place [on] Thursday, October 4 [at] 6:30 p.m., at the Walter Reed Community Center.” [Press Release]

Arlington’s Pros and Cons Compared to Tysons — “‘Arlington has old office spaces with bad floor plans,’ said [GMU Professor Stephen] Fuller. ‘That’s sending people out to Tysons, which has newer office space… [But] when Amazon was looking at Northern Virginia, they were looking at Crystal City, not Tysons. Tysons just doesn’t offer lifestyle that they’re looking for.'” [Tysons Reporter]

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) At least two packages in a mail processing center at the Pentagon could contain the deadly poison ricin, according to news reports.

Department of Defense officials have told local and national news outlets that the packages were addressed to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Admiral John Richarson, but never made it inside the Pentagon itself. The mail center is located on the building’s campus, but not inside the Pentagon.

The FBI will take the lead in the investigation, officials told reporters. No word yet on how much of the poison was discovered, or if anyone came in contact with it.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Amazon Could Change Conversation — If Amazon were to establish its second headquarters in the D.C. area, it could have wide-ranging effects, including tightening the commercial real estate market and easing antitrust pressures on the company. Writes the Economist: “Having 50,000 employees going to the same country clubs and putting children in the same schools as government officials is a shrewd strategy if Amazon wants to fend off government attacks.” [Washington Business Journal, The Economist]

One Hospitalized During Hazmat Incident — An employee at a catering business was hospitalized after a reported chemical spill at a warehouse along Four Mile Run Drive. [Twitter]

Principal on Leave at Nottingham — Nottingham Elementary School Principal Mary Beth Pelosky is “currently on leave” and former Arlington Public Schools administrator Connie Skelton is taking over as acting principal, according to an email to parents from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy. No explanation was given for Pelosky’s sudden departure.

No More Early Cherry Blossom Bloom — Initially expected to happen later this week, the peak cherry blossom bloom is, due to cold weather, now expected to occur at the end of March and possibly the beginning of April. [Capital Weather Gang, WTOP]

APS May Take Advantage of Recess Law Change — “The chairman of Arlington’s School Board appears optimistic about a change in state law that will permit school districts to squeeze more recess into the existing school day.” [InsideNova]

Photo via @thelastfc

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Update at 2:45 p.m. — The base’s public affairs office released the following statement Wednesday.

The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Feb. 27 incident where 11 personnel began feeling ill after a letter was opened on the Marine Corps side of the base remains under investigation.

NCIS and the FBI are conducting the joint investigation.

The three Marines who were transported for additional medical evaluations were released from the hospital at approximately 10 p.m. last night.

This office will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Earlier: Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement responded to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Tuesday afternoon for a hazmat situation involving an unknown substance that was mailed to the base.

Firefighters were first called to Henderson Hall, the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps, just after 4:30 p.m. for a hazmat incident. Ft. Myer, Arlington County and Alexandria firefighters and hazmat units were dispatched to the scene, as was an “EMS task force” that is usually dispatched to mass casualty incidents.

Initial reports suggest that a certified letter was opened in one of the buildings and that it contained some sort of potentially hazardous substance, prompting an evacuation of the building and the deployment of an emergency decontamination station.

Eleven people were treated for symptoms and three were transported to the hospital in stable condition, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. Symptoms included a nose bleed and a burning sensation, according to initial reports.

A Marine Corps official released a statement saying that the victims were Marines.

“An envelope containing an unknown substance was received, today, aboard Joint Base Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall,” the statement said. “Personnel in the affected building took immediate preventative measures by evacuating the building. Base officials are coordinating with local hazmat teams and the FBI. Several Marines are receiving medical care as a result of this incident.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said via Twitter that he is “closely following the situation.”

With the help of the local hazmat teams “the building was screened and cleared, and the letter was removed,” the Marine Corps said late Tuesday. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are now conducting a joint investigation.

National news media, including major television networks, gathered outside of the base in Arlington’s Foxcroft Heights neighborhood to report on the story. A press conference to be held outside the base was later cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation.

During the incident police closed off the road near the entrance to Henderson Hall, at the intersection of S. Orme Street and Southgate Road.

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Power is out in parts of Seven Corners after a truck brought down power lines behind the Eden Center in Falls Church.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. in the rear of the shopping center. Two utility poles were snapped in half as a result of the collision.

At one point, nearly 2,500 Dominion customers were without power in the area, including in parts of Arlington County. As of 3:30 p.m. Dominion was no longer reporting any outages in Arlington.

The Arlington County Fire Department responded to the scene for sparking power lines and a spill of mineral oil from the transformers. ACFD has since turned over the scene to Dominion, which will be cleaning up the spill, according to scanner traffic.

Some traffic signals in Seven Corners may be affected by the outages, according to Fairfax County Police.

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A method of repairing water pipes, utilized by Arlington County, could be exposing residents and workers to health risks, according to new research.

A report out of Purdue University in Indiana found that the procedure, called cured-in-place pipe repair (CIPP), can emit harmful chemicals into the air, which sometimes are visible as plumes of smoke. Those nearby could then be exposed.

The research found evidence of hazardous air pollutants — chemicals that disrupt the body’s endocrine system and can cause tumors, birth defects and other developmental disorders.

Arlington uses CIPP, also known as pipe relining, to fix sanitary sewer pipes. It involves inserting a fabric tube filled with resin into a damaged pipe and curing it in place with hot water, pressurized steam, or sometimes with ultraviolet light. The result is a new plastic pipe manufactured inside the damaged one that is just as strong.

There have been several reported instances of the odors produced by the relining work prompting calls to the Arlington County Fire Department. Last year ACFD’s hazmat team responded to a Chinese restaurant in Falls Church after reports of an “unusual odor in the bathroom,” which was later determined to have been caused by relining work. In 2010, “numerous” residents of a North Arlington neighborhood called to report “a pervasive chemical odor,” also during relining work.

Andrew Whelton, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the Environmental and Ecological Engineering program, led a team of researchers who conducted a study at seven steam-cured CIPP installations in Indiana and California.

“CIPP is the most popular water-pipe rehabilitation technology in the United States,” Whelton said in a statement. “Short- and long-term health impacts caused by chemical mixture exposures should be immediately investigated. Workers are a vulnerable population, and understanding exposures and health impacts to the general public is also needed.”

A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said in an email that staff stays up to date on new research about its repair methods.

“The County is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents, workers and contractors,” spokeswoman Jessica Baxter wrote in an email. “CIPP (Cured-in-place pipe) is a national industry practice that is performed throughout the country and world to reline pipes. As new studies and findings come to light, the industry and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety will need to determine if additional protection mitigation steps are needed — and we, as well as our contractors, will monitor this for any needed changes.”

Researchers said workers must better protect themselves from any harmful chemicals that are emitted, and local health officials must conduct full investigations when they receive reports of unusual odors or illnesses near CIPP sites. Baxter said the county already provides plenty of information to residents near such work.

“When the County plans work to reline a section of sanitary sewer pipe, residents whose homes are directly connected to the pipe receive a notice prior to the work explaining the process and how to prevent fumes from entering their homes,” Baxter said. “The County also has a list of recommendations for homeowners on our website.”

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