Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Lane Closures Near Ballston — Sewer relining work is closing the right-hand lane of portions of Fairfax Drive and Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, near Ballston. [Twitter]

Arlington’s Young Population Drives Trends — “One of the reasons Virginia’s Arlington County is consistently rated highest for health and fitness is because of its young demographic. Take Ballston, for example, where 47.7% of the adult population is between 25 and 44 years old.” [WTOP]

Courthouse Metro Rescue Makes National News — “We would like to thank @ABCWorldNews for broadcasting our rescue of a @wmata rider last Friday. The patient is in stable condition. If you find yourself on the tracks and are unable to exit, roll towards the platform side to the area of refuge.” [Twitter, ABC News]

Fort Myer Gate Temporarily Closed — “Attention DoD ID card holders: @JBMHH’s Old Post Chapel Gate that provides entry onto the base from Arlington National Cemetery will be temporarily closed beginning today through the end of April for construction.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Proposed Arlandria Redevelopment — A “D.C. developer filed preliminary plans with Alexandria earlier this month for the project, looking to completely overhaul a Mount Vernon Avenue shopping center near Four Mile Run Park, now called Del Ray North. It’s currently home to a MOM’s Organic Market, but has seen a variety of retail vacancies recently.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated on 07/29/19) Arlington County will not be paying for the cost of clean-up from sewage back-ups into people’s homes during the July 8 flash flood emergency.

A spokesperson for the County Manager’s office said today (Friday) that the county “sympathizes with proper owners” recovering from the unusually strong storm and “regrets” any damage caused, but “unfortunately, the County is not in a position to accept responsibility for damage to private properties resulting from this storm.”

As the rainstorm dumped water on Arlington two weeks ago, stormwater runoff filled basements in homes and businesses — as did some sewage. The Department of Environmental Services previously told ARLnow that water flooded some sewer pipes, backing up sewage into people’s homes.

The result was raw sewage flowing into basements, and in some cases, potentially washing up to the first floor of homes, as evidenced by the smells still lingering days after the storm in some houses hit hard in Westover.

“Under Virginia law, the County is legally immune from these sorts of claims and using County tax dollars to pay for damages for which the County is immune would constitute an illegal gift to a private individual,” said County Manager’s office spokesman Ben Hampton. “While the County will investigate all reported claims on a case-by-case basis, there is no legal basis for it to accept liability in the vast majority of cases resulting from the July 8 storm.”

One tipster who lives near the Cherrydale and Waverly Hills neighborhoods said his house was flooded after the main sewer line near his house flooded, “leaving us pretty much helpless as the county sewage flooded into our basement.”

When asked how many homes were affected by damaged sewer lines during the sewer line, county spokeswoman Bryna Helfer did not yet know and added that, “our primary focus right now is on pursuing the federal and state assistance.”

Over 1,000 residents and business owners filed post-storm damage claims with the county as part of Arlington’s preparation to request aid from the state or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hampton said the county is currently reviewing the the damage assessment from the claims which determines the county’s aid eligibility.

“At this time, we have no reason to believe that homeowners with major damage would not be eligible for aid if it’s approved,”  added Helfer.

“The most likely form of aid is from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which provides low-interest loans to disaster victims, including homeowners, renters, and businesses, for repairs or replacement of disaster-damaged buildings and property,” she said. “SBA can also provide capital to businesses. The County is also pursuing aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance program, which provides financial assistance to individuals and families who have sustained losses due to disasters.”

Prior to the July 8 flooding, damage from clogged county sewers has occasionally damaged homes, including several incidents in the Madison Manor neighborhood, leaving residents on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in clean-up costs.

The full response from the County Manager’s office is below.

The County sympathizes with property owners recovering from the July 8, 2019 storm, which dumped an unprecedented amount of rain in the region and caused significant damage to public infrastructure as well as private property. The County regrets any damage that may have been caused to private property from the County’s public sewer lines being damaged or overwhelmed by this storm. Unfortunately, the County is not in a position to accept responsibility for damage to private properties resulting from this storm. Under Virginia law, the County is legally immune from these sorts of claims and using County tax dollars to pay for damages for which the County is immune would constitute an illegal gift to a private individual. While the County will investigate all reported claims on a case-by-case basis, there is no legal basis for it to accept liability in the vast majority of cases resulting from the July 8 storm. Property owners are encouraged to check with their insurance carriers and to explore the possibility of obtaining flood insurance for their properties. Additional information regarding the July 8 storm is available on the Flood Recovery Center at arlingtonva.us/flood-recovery.

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Morning Notes

Favola’s Consulting Questioned by Challenger — “Is two-term Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) a rising star, poised to become chairwoman of a Senate committee if Democrats seize control of the Senate? Or is she an opportunist capitalizing on insider influence for personal gain? That’s a question for voters this June in a primary that pits Favola against challenger Nicole Merlene.” [Arlington Connection]

Video: CCTV Sewer Inspections — Arlington County uses cameras inserted into manholes to inspect its sanitary and storm sewers for cracks and other problems. [YouTube]

Another Arlington Cybersecurity Firm Acquired — “Arlington-based endpoint cybersecurity firm Endgame is being acquired by Netherlands-based search and data management firm Elastic N.V. for $234 million in stock and debt repayment, according to an announcement by the two companies.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Cybersecurity Firm Unveiled — “[Arlington-based] Kfivefour today emerged from stealth and announced the immediate availability of its full spectrum Red Team assessments, training and penetration testing services. Kfivefour is a private sector focused cybersecurity affiliate of Millennium Corporation, a defense contractor and cybersecurity company.” [PR Newswire]

Local Startup Founder Arrested — “[Former Arlington resident] Andrew Powers, the founder and CEO of communications technology firm CommuniClique Inc. — sometimes known as Clique API — has been arrested by the FBI, which has charged him with a felony for what it described as part of ‘a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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A sanitary sewer realigning along S. Four Mile Run Drive will close the Four Mile Run Trail on Wednesday (Aug. 15).

Between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., the Four Mile Run Trail will be closed between S. Troy St. and S. Joyce St. But the bypass is just the beginning of the sewer repair impact — when construction begins on a fix for the main sewer line in September, the impact will spread to the surrounding roads.

A 2015 inspection of the sanitary sewer pipes in the area found substantial degradation, including roots lodged in sewer joints and small holes in the pipes. The closures on the Four Mile Run Trail are not related to the fixing of the actual pipes, but to install a bypass that will allow work on the damage pipe to occur without interrupting service to the area.

In September, work will begin on replacing a 60-inch section of pipe on S. Glebe Rd. between S Arlington Ridge Road and S. Joyce St. The right eastbound lane of S. Glebe will be closed during this time. Jersey barriers will be erected around the site with at least one lane of travel active in each direction.

The sidewalk on the south side of the affected stretch of S. Glebe Road will be closed during this time as well.

The S Glebe Road pipe replacement is tentatively scheduled to take 24 weeks, finishing in early 2019.

Photos via Arlington County

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) The relentless rain soaking Arlington is prompting some serious flooding in the Waverly Hills neighborhood, and now people living there are pressing the county for help.

Tom Reich, a longtime homeowner in the area, told ARLnow that many of his neighbors along the 4000 block of 18th Street N. experienced serious flooding starting two weeks ago, on May 22. He also sent along the above video, showing water reaching high enough to partially submerge some cars parked on 18th Street N. and carry away some recycling bins.

“Many houses had their garages, basements, and cars flooded, sustaining many thousands of dollars in damage,” Reich wrote in an email.

Reich added that similar floods have plagued the neighborhood several times over the years — in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2013 — and the Waverly Hills Civic Association convened a meeting on May 31 with county officials to address the problem. Reich says many residents urged the county to construct stormwater management improvements, but they didn’t get much in the way of good news on that front.

“The upshot was that the county told us our need is real and acute, but the money is not currently there in the capital budget to execute the projects,” Reich wrote. “Needless to say, the Waverly Hills residents are now in the beginning stage of a campaign to highlight the threat to our homes presented by the county’s failure to act on its own plan.”

Reich points out that a variety of projects designed to manage flooding in the Spout Run watershed, where the neighborhood is located, have gone unfunded in recent years.

The county’s Capital Improvement Plan passed ahead of fiscal year 2013 included funding for four different sewer projects in the area — but Reich says those were never completed and the next CIP, passed by the County Board two years later, includes no mention of them.

County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed CIP, which details construction projects running from fiscal year 2019 through 2028, also includes some funding for stormwater management in other parts of the county, but Reich and his neighbors are frustrated that the spending plan doesn’t call for more construction around Waverly Hills.

Staff with the county’s Department of Environmental Services completed preliminary work on the projects Reich referenced after the 2006 flooding, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. Yet she says that work “identified significant challenges and costs to upgrade the system, as the current system traverses more than a dozen private properties.”

DES spokeswoman Katie O’Brien adding that the county is “still pursuing” those projects, yet noted that “technical challenges and funding remain an issue.”

Schwartz has certainly warned of the county’s fiscal challenges as he’s unveiled this year’s construction plan, thanks to Arlington’s increasing obligations to fund the Metro system and shrinking commercial tax revenues.

However, Smith would caution that “while greater capacity in the storm sewer would alleviate flooding concerns, there is no system which can guarantee elimination of flood risk to flood-prone properties.”

Video via YouTube

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The County Board is set to approve a construction contract that would install the final “missing link” of sidewalk along Old Dominion Drive.

Sidewalk installation would run along the eastbound side of Old Dominion Drive, between N. Thomas Street and Fire Station No. 3. The fire station is approximately 440 feet from Military Road.

Proposed sidewalk enhancements include “ADA curb ramps, crosswalks, and provisions for future streetlights.”

This is the last section of sidewalk installed on Old Dominion Drive east of 37th Street N. County documents note that the project has been coordinated with the nearby Stratford School Project.

Tree removal along Old Dominion Road began earlier this year in anticipation of sidewalk construction.

The County Manager’s office has recommended approving the $789,324 contract to the Capitol Heights, Md.-based Sagres Construction Corporation.

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Workers from the county’s Department of Environmental Services stopped a sewage leak into the Donaldson Run stream overnight.

According to a tweet from DES, crews installed a bypass overnight into a sewage pipe, which broke due to its age, damage from tree roots and the recent cold temperatures.

Repairs to the pipe, which is in a remote location next to Zachary Taylor Park (2900 Military Road), are ongoing.

A DES spokesman said that the remote location made the leak hard to find, but that staff had been aware since last weekend.

“[S]taff did log the leak report over the weekend and the search began soon thereafter,” the spokesman said. “It just took a while for crews to find the leak because of the remote location — which you can see on the tweet photo.”

The spokesman reiterated that the “discharge that entered Donaldson Run will be diminished by natural flushing of the stream over time.”

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A broken sewer pipe caused a sewage leak into the Donaldson Run stream, affecting the water in two parks in Arlington County.

A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said a resident reported discharge of sewage into the stream in Zachary Taylor Park (2900 Military Road) this morning.

On further inspection, the spokesman said, DES crews found that a sewage pipe had broken due to its age, damage from tree roots and the recent cold temperatures. Crews plan to repair it tomorrow (Tuesday), the spokesman added.

Those in the area should avoid contact with the water in the stream in Zachary Taylor Park downstream from N. Upshur Street, and also in the nearby Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 Marcey Road).

“The discharge that entered Donaldson Run will be diminished by natural flushing of the stream over time,” the spokesman said.

Both parks will remain open to the public.

Image via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Lost Dog Reunited With Owner — A dog that disappeared under mysterious circumstances is back at home this morning, her owner says, after the man who picked her up as she was wandering around North Arlington saw a sign with the dog’s photo and dialed the phone number on it. [Facebook]

County Lauded for Digital Prowess — Arlington has been named one of the “top 5 counties for digital government” by StateTech magazine. The county was lauded for “embracing open data and transparency” in decision making and citizen outreach. [StateTech]

Sewer Work At Westover Park — There will be some impacts along the Custis Trail starting today as a multi-day emergency sewer repair project gets underway at Westover Park. [Twitter, Twitter]

Death at Belvedere Condos — A man reportedly jumped to his death at the Belvedere Condominiums near Rosslyn on Friday. The complex’s pool and pool deck were closed Friday as police investigated the incident.

Priest Who Admitted KKK Past Still Venerated Confederacy — A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington might not have been totally forthcoming when he admitted and renounced his KKK activity as a young man. Even after becoming a priest, in the early 2000s, Rev. William Aitcheson “was a ‘fervent advocate of the Confederacy’ who would joke about ‘Saint Robert E. Lee’ in homilies at the church,” one former student of his recalled. [Washington Post, Washington Post]

Nearby: Two Men Jump From Aqueduct Bridge — One man is dead and another in grave condition after both jumped from the Aqueduct Bridge in Georgetown, near the Key Bridge, into the Potomac River. A friend of the men said they were hanging out on the bridge when one decided to jump, then the other jumped in to save him. Boats and and a helicopter were used as part of the subsequent rescue operation. [NBC Washington]

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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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The county’s sewage plant is set for repairs after the Arlington County Board approved a five-year contract at its meeting on Saturday.

The Water Pollution Control Plant’s concrete tanks at 3402 S. Glebe Road, near the Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge neighborhoods, are struggling with structural deterioration. They will be repaired with grouting, coating, crack injection, or by other means by an on-call contractor during the five-year contract.

The plant has 60 concrete sewage channels and tanks that help treat the county’s wastewater, and — despite recent upgrades — some of the tanks are over 65 years old.

The contract has a set cost of $1.25 million, with an additional $125,000 set aside as a contingency. In recommending the plan, county staff said scheduling repairs ahead of time rather than doing them on an emergency basis will reduce costs and risk to construction workers.

The County Board approved the contract as part of its consent agenda at its meeting Saturday (July 15).

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