Arlington, VA

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.

Photos 1 and 2 via Google Maps

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As the summer moves into full swing, Arlington residents should plan to take extra precautions to prevent and respond to tick bites.

Ticks are more active in warm weather, according to the Virginia Department of Health, and bites can cause illnesses like Lyme disease.

A new tip sheet from the county recommends four steps you can take to limit your exposure to tick bites:

  • Use an appropriate insect repellent
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and hats, especially in grassy, brushy or wooded outdoor areas
  • Shower within two hours of being outdoors
  • Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes after coming inside

Between 2000 and 2016, reported cases of Lyme disease in Arlington County fluctuated from a maximum of 34 to a minimum of two. Although there were just five Lyme disease cases reported in Arlington in 2016, down from 24 in 2015, the number of all disease cases from tick bites nationally doubled between 2004 and 2016.

Virginia is also among 14 states mostly clustered along the East Coast in which 95 percent of confirmed cases of Lyme disease occurred in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bites linked to Lyme disease can often be identified from three days to several weeks after the bite via flu-like symptoms and a red, circular rash at the bite site. For help identifying a tick, contact the Arlington County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 703-228-6400.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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More than 100 students were out sick today (Thursday) at McKinley Elementary School after a stomach bug swept through campus.

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said 135 of the school’s 800 students were out, after about 85 were absent yesterday (Wednesday).

The spokesman said that while it sounded like a “typical [stomach] bug that makes its way around this time of year,” he said he could not be sure that all the absences were related to it.

Multiple anonymous tipsters reported the spread of the illness through the school at 1030 N. McKinley Road in Madison Manor.

The School Health Bureau within the county’s Department of Health sent a letter to parents warning of an “increase in reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness,” and urging parents to make sure children wash their hands and stay home if they develop vomiting or diarrhea.

Parents throughout APS can expect to receive a letter soon about winter illnesses in the community, which the spokesman said is “typically sent each December to our families as a reminder.”

The School Health Bureau’s letter to McKinley parents is after the jump.

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With a rare solar eclipse set for Monday afternoon, Arlington is preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The moon is set to pass in front of the sun at around 1:17 p.m. Monday. Its peak is projected to be at 2:42 p.m., when 80 percent of the sun will be hidden, while the eclipse is expected to end at 4:01 p.m.

On Monday morning, ambassadors from the Rosslyn Business Improvement District will be at the Rosslyn Metro station handing out 200 pairs of free eclipse glasses while stocks last.

From 8:15 a.m. onwards, anyone wanting to pick up a pair needs to show that they “like” the Rosslyn BID’s page on Facebook from their smartphone.

The Connection pop-up library in Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive in the Crystal City Shops) gave out hundreds of free glasses with which to watch the eclipse, supplied by PBS. The free glasses proved to be popular and the supply quickly ran out.

Clarendon restaurant Don Tito will host its rooftop eclipse viewing party from noon onwards on Monday, with the event now sold out. The watering hole at 3165 Wilson Blvd will offer what it described as “eclipse-inspired refreshments” and taco specials for the occasion.

And for anyone hoping to watch the eclipse, the county’s Public Health Division has some advice to avoid spectators’ eyes being permanently burned by part of the sun’s light:

  • At no point in the Washington, DC area will anyone be able to safely view the eclipse without using special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse sunglasses or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses — even very dark ones- – are NOT safe for looking at the sun.
  • Looking at the sun without eclipse glasses or solar viewers can permanently burn the retina of the eye. The retina is the inside back layer of your eye which converts light into pictures that your brain uses to interpret what is going on around you.
  • An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed Sun is pinhole projection. NASA offers a guide for making your own pinhole projector.
  • As always, children should always be supervised when using solar filters and pinhole projectors.
  • A solar eclipse is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy this incredible event now and have great memories for years to come.
  • For further recommendations on how to safely enjoy the solar eclipse, go to:
  • For reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers, the American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable vendors at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

Courtesy photo

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Updated at 6:20 p.m. — A dog that authorities initially feared had died of rabies, potentially exposing the deadly disease to pets and people who visited a Cherrydale veterinary office, was not rabid according to the Centers for Disease Control. In a press release (below) the county says anyone who started rabies vaccinations should stop.

The Washington, D.C. Department of Health (DOH) learned today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCC) that a bulldog that initially tested positive for rabies was in fact NOT rabid. The update came after public health officials in the District of Columbia and in Arlington already had alerted the public and reached out to those who may have come in contact with the dog.

“Once the initial rabies test was positive, we had to act quickly to inform the public and to begin treatment of anyone exposed. Rabies, left untreated, is fatal. We are relieved that the CDC test confirmed that the bulldog, was not, in fact, rabid and that the public was not at risk.”

After conducting its own test of the dog, DOH sent the test sample to the CDC for confirmation, a routine step when there are questions about the results. In this case, the dog had been vaccinated for rabies and was not known to have had exposure to the deadly disease. The CDC results were NEGATIVE. The dog did not have rabies.

Anyone who began rabies vaccinations based on the initial test results is NOT AT RISK of rabies and should stop the vaccination series. It will not cause harm to stop the series.

Arlington residents who have questions should call (703) 228-5200 Option #1 and ask for the Nurse of the Day during business hours (Monday – Friday 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.) After hours call, (703) 228-5645 and leave a message with your name and phone number and your call will be returned within 2 hours.

Earlier: Arlington County’s health department is trying to find those who might have had contact with a bulldog that has died of rabies.

The bulldog was brought to the Cherrydale Veterinary Clinic (4038 Lee Hwy) the morning of Saturday, July 8 and the afternoon of Friday, July 14, the county said in a press release. The county has been working with the clinic to identify and get in touch with those who might have had physical contact with the dog.

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Morning Notes

Bicycling in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

County Backtracks on Uber Story — Arlington County is in the early stages of considering a plan to replace low-ridership ART service with some sort of partnership with ridesharing services, like Uber. However, the county is backtracking on an official’s statement that the service would be subsidized. “A recent press account quoted a County staff person as saying, incorrectly, that we will be subsidizing this service,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “No such decision has been made at this preliminary stage of analysis.” [Arlington County]

Advisory Group: Change Name of Jeff Davis Highway — An advisory group appointed by the City of Alexandria has recommended changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway. Alexandria’s “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names” says the Confederate president’s name should be removed from Route 1 in the city. [Patch]

Ultimate Frisbee Vote — Arlington Public Schools is now the first school system in Virginia to make ultimate frisbee an official school sport. The Arlington School Board voted Thursday night to implement ultimate as a sport in middle and high schools, on an initial countywide budget of $90,000. [WTOP]

New ART Bus Route Launching Monday — The new ART 54 bus route will begin serving Dominion Hills, Madison Manor and East Falls Church on Monday. The new bus will run every 24 minutes on weekdays, during the morning and evening rush hours. [Arlington Transit]

Medicine Dispensing Exercise — Arlington residents are being encouraged to participate in the county health department’s mass medication dispensing exercise on Saturday. Volunteers are needed to form a crowd seeking medication (the county will be dispensing two types of candy during the exercise.) [ARLnow]

United Bank Purchasing Cardinal Bank — Two regional banks are coming together to form what may be the “most dominant community bank” in the D.C. area. United Bank, which has four Arlington branches, is purchasing Cardinal Bank, which has five Arlington branches. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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It’s almost mosquito season in the D.C. area and Arlington County says it is “continuing to monitor” the potential danger from the Zika virus.

In a new county-produced video, Dr. Reuben Varghese, Chief of Arlington’s Public Health Division, said that there are no Zika-infected mosquitos in Arlington, but there have been travel-associated cases of Zika in the region.

Mosquito 4Ds (via Arlington County)Once thought to be largely harmless, Zika has now been linked to a major birth defect of the brain. Public health agencies in the U.S. are on alert as the virus spreads in South America.

Arlington County has an online “mosquito information center” that advises residents who want to protect themselves from mosquitos to drain standing water, dress in long sleeves and pants, stay indoors during dawn and dusk, and use mosquito repellent containing DEET.

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New Panera Bread restaurant in the Pentagon City mall food courtSix restaurants inside the Fashion Center at Pentagon City mall have been closed due to a sewage backup.

Citing an “imminent health hazard,” the county’s health department has closed the following: Maki of Japan, McDonald’s, Popeyes, Panera Bread, Great Wraps and Which Wich.

“Public Health is aware of the situation and will work with the establishments to help get them up and running when it is safe to do so,” said Arlington County Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.

Several other restaurants in the mall’s food court were unaffected by the sewage issue and remain open.

File photo

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(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Several restaurants in the food court at the Pentagon City Mall are closed as the mall undergoes repairs to its sewer system today.

The hours-long repairs caused mall management to shut off the water. As a result, Arlington County Public Health closed the food court earlier today, the agency announced.

Among the businesses closed as of 1:00 p.m. were Taco Bell, Chipotle and McDonald’s, but Panda Express, Panera Bread and Popeye’s were open. Post-holiday shoppers had to wait in long lines to buy meals at the restaurants that remained open.

“The County continues to monitor the situation and will take additional action if necessary,” a county media alert stated.

According to Arlington’s Director of Public Health Dr. Reuben Varghese, the mall is reporting they have turned the water back on, which means restaurants that have running water are now allowed to operate. Varghese said health department staff is “on the way” to the mall to confirm the water is running.

The mall is currently undergoing renovations that will change the design of the food court and add tens of thousands of square feet for new shops and restaurants.

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Long Branch Elementary School (photo via APS)School and health department officials are investigating a possible norovirus outbreak at Long Branch Elementary School.

At least 20 students went to the school clinic Friday because of nausea or vomiting, according to Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.

Officials say they’re investigating whether the illness was caused by norovirus, and whether the virus might have spread due to a bathroom that was not cleaned properly.

Photo via APS

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Morning Notes

Pumpkin in a fountain in Clarendon

Orange/Silver Line Delays — There were delays on the Orange and Silver lines this morning due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. The disabled train has since been cleared and trains are no longer single tracking around it. [Twitter]

Video: Don’t Put H-B Woodlawn in Reed School — A video created by members of the Westover community urges Arlington Public Schools to reject any proposal to relocate the H-B Woodlawn secondary program to the Reed School. [YouTube]

Design Tweaks for Courthouse Building — Developer Carr Properties has made several tweaks to the design of 2025 Clarendon Blvd, its proposed office building which will replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse. Responding to concerns from county planners, Carr has added a fourth retail bay and replaced most of the terra cotta in the facade with more glass and steel. [Washington Business Journal – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]

Health Violations at Arlington Restaurants — WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek has set his sights on Arlington restaurants that have had food safety licenses revoked, including Mario’s Pizza, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Pedro & Vinny’s and Astor Mediterranean. In Virginia, restaurants get their violations cleared from the public database after getting a new license post-revocation. [WUSA9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]

Parking App for DCA — Starting Nov. 1, those parking at Reagan National Airport will be able to pay via a smartphone app. [MWAA]

Sun Gazette Carries Doomsday Ad — The Arlington Sun Gazette recently carried an ad for Disaster Retreat, a doomsday safe haven in central Virginia for “serious-minded families and executives.” The half-page ad was adjacent to a streetcar editorial and ads for window treatments and dog training. [Slate]

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