Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

ACPD School Donation Drive Returns — “Help Arlington County students start the school year prepared to succeed by donating new school supplies and other classroom materials during the Fill the Cruiser Back-to-School Supply Drive… on Thursday, August 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.” [Arlington County]

Discussing Marymount’s Ballston Campus — “Colleges and universities have cracked the code to propel cities forward toward the future of education: focus on the campus experience, expand pathways to new careers, and partner with surrounding communities and cities to drive growth. In Arlington, Va., Marymount University has done just that.” [Medium]

National Night Out in Crystal City — The Crystal City Civic Association and Crystal City BID will be holding their first National Night Out event on Tuesday, Aug. 6. [Crystal City BID]

Post-Flood Trash Collection Update — “The County took special measures to assist residential curbside customers in trash collection efforts following the July 8 damaging storm. This service was in addition to the weekly trash collection by our contractors. Over 110 tons of trash was collected through this service, which is the equivalent of the total weight of 16 school buses. Most of this had to be hand collected and lifted by our crews.” [Arlington County]

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(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Over a thousand residents have reported damage to their homes and several tons of debris was collected after last week’s torrential rainstorm that caused widespread flooding in Arlington.

The deadline for residents to report initial damages to their homes was Friday, July 12. Today (Monday) officials told ARLnow that a total of 1,029 people filed post-storm damage claims.

The damage reports describe a range of problem from minor (clogged drains) to major (completely flooded basements), said Hannah Winant, a spokeswoman with Arlington’s Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM) department.

Winant said the reports will help Arlington County’s recovery and flood mitigation efforts.

“First, reports help us determine what neighborhoods have been impacted by weather. For example, we may learn if someone needs a safety inspection after electricity loss,” she said. “Second, damage reports help us better convey our needs to the state when requesting potential resources to assist with recovery efforts. The more clearly we can articulate how many people have been impacted… the better we can advocate for our community and potentially collaborate with state and federal partners to help.”

As for the destruction of county property like pedestrian bridges and public parks, Winant says Arlington is current estimating about $4.1 million in damages — up from initial estimates last week of $3.5 million.

PSCEM’s director clarified during Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting that these reports are used for the county’s state and federal aid applications, and that affected residents will have another change to summit damage claims later.

Crews hauled away 60 tons of debris — from rolled up carpets to soggy books to water-damaged furniture — during special collections from Wednesday to Saturday, according to Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. That doesn’t include the ruined parts of people’s homes that dotted curbs around Arlington, waiting to be collected on regular trash pick-up days.

O’Brien said that county crews are scheduled to continue helping residents affected by the floods clear debris this week. The department previously apologized for a contractor who cited some flood-stricken residents “for improper trash preparation.”

Many homes, shops, restaurants, and pieces of public infrastructure were damaged by last Monday’s unusually strong storm — leading County Manager Mark Schwartz to declare a state of emergency in a bid for state or federal aid two days later.

“Our community experienced a rain event on Monday the likes of which no one who lives in Arlington, or who has lived in Arlington, has ever seen,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey at the Board’s weekend meeting, during which members unanimously voted to finalize the declaration. “The violent storm that turned the daytime sky as dark as night in a matter in minutes.”

PSCEM Director Aaron Miller told the Board that the county met the $3 million minimum damage threshold needed to qualify for state aid, and that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is sending inspectors to Arlington this week to verify the damage reports. The SBA could offer grants or low-interest loans for residents to rebuild.

Miller said additional aid hinges on a tangle of bureaucratic red tape among FEMA and larger emergency declarations that can only happen at the federal level when certain damage thresholds are met.

Dorsey added that he hoped that Virginia or the federal government will be able to give “some sort of help” but that the majority of costs are likely to fall on homeowners and business owners.

Several members of the public urged the Board to re-examine its storm water management system in hard-hit areas. Board Member Erik Gutshall proposed that the county start thinking about flood-ready construction for more resilient buildings and infrastructure.

Dorsey praised county staff for their work over the past week but noted that, “we do have to up our game” in face of future potential impacts from climate change. 

“It is quite frankly a blessed miracle that no one was killed or even seriously injured with the events of this past Monday and for that we are profoundly grateful,” he said.

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A trash truck dumped a flaming load of garbage in the parking lot of Washington Golf and Country Club this afternoon, leading to lane closures on N. Glebe Road during the evening rush hour.

The incident was first reported shortly before 5 p.m. The contents of a Waste Management truck caught fire, prompting the driver to dump the load in the ritzy private club’s front parking lot.

Firefighters were eventually able to extinguish the slow-burning fire, from which a small plume of smoke was visible on a nearby traffic camera. Now the private trash collection company will have to figure out how to clean up the mountain of soggy, sometimes charred debris from the parking lot, along with the detritus that was washed down nearby N. Glebe Road.

Both northbound lanes of Glebe were temporarily blocked at Old Dominion Drive during the incident. One lane has since reopened.

Similar trash truck fires happened last year just off S. Glebe Road and in the Penrose neighborhood.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Arlington County’s costs for recycling is continuing to rise after a Chinese ban last year, officials say, but most of what residents place in the recycling bin is still getting recycled.

Costs for processing recyclables have risen from $15.73 per ton to $28.62 per ton in the last six months as the value of things like paper and plastics is plummeting, Arlington’s chief of solid waste Erik Grabowsky told ARLnow today.

Recyclables remain cheaper than trash, which costs the county $43.16 per ton, but the industry lost the primary way items get recycled.

Recycling is a $200 billion global industry with China importing as much as 70 percent — that is, until the country abruptly stopped in January 2018 over pollution concerns. The loss of such a big buyer has plummeted the value of some plastics and low-grade paper, forcing many cities to nix recycling all together, the New York Times reported last week.

“The China Ban has negatively impacted recycling commodity markets around the world. As a result, the value of the recycling material collected in the county has declined,” Gabrowsky said.

Another ongoing problem for the county is glass.

Glass may seem like an easy material to reuse, but “single-stream” recycling systems like Arlington’s often shatter bottles. The result are mixed-up colored glass shards, which makes it difficult to separate from other recyclable materials.

County officials announced in October that Arlington might end glass recycling, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Services said today that the county “is still studying the issue and has not made a decision on whether or not to remove glass from the recycling stream at this time.”

Today, he says the county is sending almost all the glass collected from people’s recycling bins to landfills. (Paper and plastics are still being recycled, Gabrowsky said.)

The only exception is glass delivered to the county’s two drop-off centers at N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd and 2700 S. Taylor Street.

Glass from those two containers is shipped to Fairfax County where local officials are experimenting with a pulverization machine that smashes glass into sand they hope can be used to repair roads.

While the future of Arlington’s glass is uncertain, he said the county will “continue to collect the same recyclable material list, but would ask that residents adhere strictly to the list and not place items into the recycling cart that are not recyclable like plastic bags.”

More advice on recycling smart and reducing waste from DES, below:

  • “By far the best way to manage our waste is to generate less waste to begin with. Consider reusing, repairing and donating items before you dispose them.”
  • “Make sure food and beverage containers are empty and free from food and other residue before you place them into the blue cart. It is a good idea to do a quick rinse to containers that held anything that can spoil.”
  • “When you recycle, include only correct materials. Leave out things like plastic bags, plastic foam cups and plates, food residue, liquids and miscellaneous garbage.”
  • “To find out how to properly dispose of items, check out our Where Does It Go? directory.”

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Last week Sarah, a Rosslyn resident, was trying to solve a problem: what do you do if a mattress is left along the side of a busy local road and no one has done anything about it for weeks?

“A mattress was dumped on the sidewalk on Clarendon Blvd between Rhodes and Quinn about two weeks ago,” she told ARLnow. “It appears that the negligent property dumper and Arlington County are at a standoff, as the mattress remains. So what’s the end resolution here? Does this mattress stay on public property for eternity?”

“It’s an interesting civic dilemma,” Sarah added. “If Arlington County acquiesces and disposes of the mattress, the negligent resident has their belief that they can skirt the rules reinforced.”

Disposing of a mattress is not a straightforward proposition for those who live in local condos, apartments or other private communities. Unlike single-family home owners in Arlington, who can generally just leave mattresses and other bulky items by the curb, residents of multi-family complexes play by the rules of the trash company their building, HOA, etc. contracts with.

In this instance, someone apparently either decided to just dump the mattress and make it someone else’s problem — or Googled “mattress disposal arlington va” and didn’t realize that Arlington County’s trash pickup service does not apply to them.

Either way, the answer for Sarah and anyone with the same issue going forward is: visit the county’s website.

“Thanks for bringing this to our attention,” said Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “We have placed an illegal dumping ticket for this item. Someone from our Solid Waste Bureau will pick it up soon to dispose of it.”

For future reference, according to O’Brien: “Please report any litter or illegal dumping through our online Report a Problem tool: https://topics.arlingtonva.us/reportproblem/.”

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Get ready to start raking in the leaves: the county’s leaf collection starts next Monday (Nov. 12) for some neighborhoods and continues through mid-December.

The vacuum truck will operate Mondays through Saturdays, except for Thanksgiving, and will complete two sweeps on a set neighborhood schedule. The first pass runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 4. Immediately afterward the second collection pass begins and run until Dec. 20.

Look for yellow signs posted three to seven days ahead of the first pass and then orange signs for the second one. Leaves should be at the curb at the start of the collection window and stay there until they are collected.

Residents can prepare for leaf collection by raking leaves to the curb — and away from storm drains and water meter covers — the weekend before the scheduled collection. The brochure reminds residents to remove stones, branches, litter and other debris from the pile and to reduce fire hazards by not parking cars on leaf piles.

Residents can also recycle leaves by placing them in green organics carts or paper yard bags at the curb by 6 a.m. for pickup on regular trash collection days. The weight cut off is 50 pounds for bags and 200 pounds for carts. The recycled leaves become nutrient-rich mulch that residents can pick up for free either at the Solid Waste Bureau near SHirlington or near Marymount University at 4712 26th Street N.

The county will not collect leaves in plastic bags.

“Yard trimmings collected in Arlington County are composted and used to make top soil for use in county projects. Plastic bags and other inorganic materials contaminate the end product,” a blurb on a county brochure reads.

The county’s free bag distribution started last week (Oct. 29) and runs until Jan. 18 while supplies last at the following locations:

  • Aurora Hills Community Center, 735 18th Street S., 703-228-5715
  • Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, 703-228-3000
  • Lee Community Center, 5722 Lee Hwy, 703-228-0552
  • Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, 703-228-6535
  • Madison Community Center, 3829 N. Stafford Street, 703-228-5310
  • Solid Waste Bureau, 4300 29th Street S., 703-228-6570
  • Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd Street S., 703-228-5920

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) A trash truck caught fire near the Syphax Education Center in Penrose early this afternoon.

Police and firefighters are on the scene, along 2nd Street S. at S. Wayne Street.

The Waste Management truck’s driver dumped its contents onto the roadway after the fire started, according to police on the scene. A hazmat team subsequently managed to contain the spill, and Waste Management will be arranging a clean-up effort, according to scanner traffic.

Police expect 2nd Street S. to be closed in both directions for the next few hours. Fire marshals are currently investigating how the fire started.

This is at least the second trash truck fire in Arlington so far this year.

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) A trash truck smashed into a half dozen cars near Rosslyn this morning.

The crash was reported just after 11 a.m., at the intersection of N. Nash Street and the Arlington Blvd access road, in Ft. Myer Heights.

The truck was going up the steep hill on N. Nash Street when it lost its momentum and started rolling down, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant.

On the way down it struck five vehicles, destroyed part of a stone wall and came to a stop in an apartment building parking lot. It also pushed at least one vehicle over a retaining wall and onto the street and sidewalk below.

Police and firefighters are on scene and the intersection is closed to traffic during the cleanup. The driver of the truck is currently being evaluated for injuries, O’Bryant said.

Photos via @idlelupino, Google Maps

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Morning Notes

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.

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If you live in a single-family home in Arlington, the trash you put out for collection each week eventually comes back to you — in the form of electricity.

While the Arlington recycling rate is nearly 50 percent, well above the national average of about 35 percent, that means that there still is plenty of garbage to deal with. All that waste has to go somewhere and much of it ends up at a waste-to-energy plant in Alexandria, near the Van Dorn Street Metro station, that Arlington jointly owns with the city.

Covanta, the company that operates the facility, estimates that they process 975 tons of solid waste per day, distributed among the three 325 ton-per-day furnaces on-site, preventing it from ending up in a landfill.

“In some ways, the U.S. can be seen as a third-world country, with the way we’re putting garbage in landfills,” said James Regan, Covanta’s media director.

Arlington and Alexandria’s municipal waste goes through an emissions-controlled incinerator, where the controlled fire reaches temperatures just under 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire boils water, which in turn generates steam and, through that, electricity.

That generates about 23 megawatts of baseload power, according to Regan, enough to power about 20,000 homes.

Emissions are monitored throughout the processes, with a few-dozen-or-so knobs, buttons and devices each focused on a different aspect of the process.

With all the capabilities, however, the control room’s goal is threefold: to monitor multiple security camera feeds in case of the occasional, small fire in the trash pit; to monitor temperatures in the combustion chamber; and pollution monitoring and emissions controls.

The combustion has led to a 90 percent reduction of waste by volume, which the company says offsets, on average, one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent for each ton of waste processed.

Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals are able to be extracted from the combustion and recycled, and Covanta is currently developing ways to reuse ash “as aggregate for roadways and construction materials.”

The facility has been burning trash since February 1988, according to Bryan Donnelly, the Arlington/Alexandria facility manager.

Prior to that, there was another incinerator, but it didn’t have the emissions controls or metal recovery program that the current waste-to-energy plant has.

New plants can cost as much as $500 million, but tend to be much larger than Arlington’s plant, which is only four acres — the smallest operated by Covanta. Most other plants are closer to 24 acres, according to Regan.

He estimates that this facility, in today’s dollars, would have cost about $200 million.

“We’re not saying take everything to [a waste-to-energy] facility,” said Regan. “We’re saying, let’s recycle more, to 65 percent. Let’s reduce the amount of landfill that [the U.S.] is doing,”

Exterior view via Google Maps

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A smoldering pile of trash is currently blocking 1st Road S., two blocks from Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The trash fire was first reported around 10:30 a.m., at the intersection of 1st Road and S. Oakland Street, on the west side of S. Glebe Road. A private garbage collection crew reported that it had dumped its load of trash in the road after the trash caught on fire.

Firefighters are currently dousing the trash pile with water while using tools to move the pile around to find hot spots.

After the fire is completely extinguished, the trash collection company is then expected to start the cleanup process.

Map via Google Maps

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