Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider a $4.5 million contract to rehabilitate an out-of-service water main in the middle of N. Glebe Road.

The 36-inch transmission main — the same size as the large pipe that burst and shut down N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge in November — was placed out of service in 2013 due to concerns about a catastrophic failure. A transmission line was built parallel to it after a major water main break on N. Old Glebe Road in 2009 and is currently providing service to the area.

County officials say rehabbing the old main, which was built in 1972, will help provide redundancy in the county’s water system. Arlington’s water comes from the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., by way of pipes that cross the Potomac River at Chain Bridge then branch out to various parts of the county.

The project will run along N. Glebe Road from Old Glebe Road to Little Falls Road — a distance of about 0.8 miles. Residents should expect lane closures and daytime water service interruptions during the course of the project, the county staffers said in a report to the County Board.

The Board is expected to vote on the contract at its meeting this Saturday.

More from the staff report:

This contract is for the rehabilitation of a transmission main built in 1972 in the right-of-way of North Glebe Road between Old North Glebe Road and Little Falls Road. The transmission main was placed out of service due to a catastrophic failure in 2009. The proposed rehabilitation work will prevent the likely future failure of this transmission main and bring it back to service which will provide redundancy for the water main network.

The proposed transmission main rehabilitation is part of the Water Main Rehabilitation / Replacement program outlined in the Capital Improvement Plan. Inspection and evaluation of the existing transmission main subsequent to the November 2009 break revealed that the transmission main was subject to failure. Therefore, a 36″ transmission main was installed in parallel and the existing failing transmission main was placed out of service in 2013. The proposed rehabilitation work consists of lining the existing transmission main that was placed out of service and replacing some portions of it. The overall goal for the proposed rehabilitation is to reinstate the transmission main which is currently out of service and provide the required redundancy to meet water demand in the area. […]

The scope of this project involves the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure along the same corridor and the construction will cause some water services disruptions throughout the duration of the project. These disruptions will not be for an extended period. Traffic flow will be maintained throughout the project duration by keeping at least one lane open each direction during working hours throughout the project duration. The traffic impacts of the project have been communicated via the project website and through Civic Association presidents. Progress updates regarding the construction of the project will continue to be regularly provided to the communities via the two channels noted above.

Upon contract award and before the start of construction, a detailed letter about the project and construction schedule will be sent to the presidents of both Civic Associations and then be distributed to residents who will be directly impacted by the project. Additionally, water service disruptions will be coordinated with the affected residents in advance of any shutdowns. All shutdowns will be limited to construction hours during the work day.

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Local listservs and Nextdoor networks in Arlington have been abuzz over high water bills, but officials say there’s a very simple explanation for it.

Many residents — including at least one ARLnow staffer — saw a 40%+ jump in their most recently quarterly water bills.

“I’m seeing on NextDoor many people complaining about high Q4 water/sewer bills,” Noah, a local resident, said in a tip to ARLnow earlier this month. “Ours for example indicated a 50% increase in daily consumption over same period last year.”

“Many, many Cherrydale residents got enormous water bills this quarter double and triple their normal bills,” said June, another Arlington resident. “Our listserv is loaded with comments.”

But Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says it has not found any systemic problem leading to high water bills. Instead, officials suggested, an extended drought led to more outdoor watering and thus higher water usage by those with yards and outdoor vegetation.

“From what we’ve seen in our data so far, there was some increase in usage in the September time frame,” Mike Moon, the Chief Operating Officer for DES, told ARLnow this morning. “We attribute that mostly to the drought… Sometimes there are issues with meters, [but we’re] not seeing any systemic issues this time around.”

DES says it saw a 14% increase in water usage in September, as the drought intensified.

In an email to ARLnow, one local resident wondered whether online forums were leading people to draw false conclusions about the higher bills.

“Can you investigate the Arlington buzz about unusually high water bills?” asked Betsey. “Places it’s been discussed [include] Ashton Heights, Cherrydale, Lyon Village, and a few complaints from Bluemont.”

“Either it’s a real problem,” she continued, “OR the power of the Internet is breeding a false problem.”

statement to water customers released by DES is below, after the jump.

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Arlington County is working to fix a pair of water infrastructure issues ahead of an expected evening snowstorm and freezing overnight temperatures.

A six-inch water main burst on the 1600 block of N. Jackson Street in Lyon Village this morning, potentially knocking out water service to some 70 customers. Repairs are expected to wrap up by 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, a valve leak on the 4800 block of 1st Street S. in the Arlington Forest neighborhood is affecting the water service of up to 50 customers. Repairs are expected to be complete around 3 p.m.

In both instances, traffic is blocked around the water work; drivers should expect detours.

Map via Google Maps

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Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.

Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.

More from Garvey’s speech:

We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.

We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.

First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.

Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.

Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.

So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?

Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.

“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”

Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.

“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.

More from a county press release:

Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”

To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) An entrance to the Pentagon Metro station is expected to close soon, temporarily and during off-peak hours, to allow for water infrastructure work following flooding at the station.

A pipe burst on Nov. 27, filling part of the station with several inches of standing water. Metro says a new water supply pipe will need to be constructed, as repairs are not feasible for the original pipe, which runs under the Pentagon itself and dates back to the station’s original construction.

An exact date for the start of the temporary closure was not given. Shortly after a contract to construct the new water line is awarded, the north entrance to the Metro station is expected to close “outside of weekday rush hours,” Metro said.

More from a press release:

Metro customers entering or exiting Pentagon Station during off-peak travel times will need to use the “South Entrance” escalators or the elevators due entrance configuration changes associated with the construction of a new water supply line to serve the station’s facilities, including employee restrooms and maintenance sinks.

Dating to the station’s original construction, the original water supply pipe failed on November 27, sending water streaming into the station through air ducts and elevator shafts. The rush of water dislodged some ductwork, and caused a partial ceiling collapse in a service room. The station was closed for several hours to remove several inches water that had accumulated on the mezzanine level.

Because the original water line runs beneath the Pentagon — an inaccessible location — Metro engineers have recommended abandoning the original pipe and constructing a new water line on a new route around the building.

The Pentagon has been an active and supportive partner to expedite the construction process and necessary security clearances for workers. Metro has already engaged its contractor community and expects to award a contract as early as next week. Once a construction contract is awarded and a formal schedule is developed, Metro will update customers on the expected duration of the project.

CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Due to construction activity and security considerations associated with the portable restrooms, Metro is advising customers who use Pentagon Station to expect entrance configuration changes during off-peak travel times. The changes will continue until a new water line is constructed and water service is restored to the station, a process that likely will take several weeks.

Specifically, outside of weekday rush hours, the station’s “North Entrance” will be closed and all customers will need to use the South Entrance, which will remain open at all times.

During rush hours–Monday through Friday, 5:00-9:30 a.m. and 3:00-7:00 p.m.–the North and South entrances will both be open and available for customers. Elevator service to the station will be available at all times.

Rail service on the Blue and Yellow lines is not affected by this project.

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Update at 12:15 p.m. — N. Glebe Road has reopened but crews will need to return for follow up work “in a few days,” the county says. Photos posted earlier today show the sinkhole fixed and the roadway re-paved.

Update at 10:15 a.m. — The boil water advisory that much of Arlington has been under over the past couple of days is now lifted. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services made the announcement Sunday morning.

Arlington County issued the following press release Sunday morning:

Arlington County has lifted the Boil Water Advisory.

Following the large water transmission main break on Nov. 8 at Glebe Road and Chain Bridge Road, residents and businesses in Arlington can resume using tap water for all purposes.

Water customers are advised to run their taps for a few minutes to release any air and sediment that may have accumulated following the break. Emptying and cleaning automatic ice makers and water chillers is also encouraged.

A series of rigorous tests have determined that the system is safe following the significant water main break early Friday, Nov. 8, that caused pressure drops in several locations across the County. Because of significant pressure loss before the 36-inch transmission line was bypassed, Arlington issued a Boil Water Advisory for affected areas of the County as a safety measure.

Tests identified no potentially threatening bacteria in the system as a result of the break, and samples met Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The County consulted with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to ensure the water system is safe for public use.

Arlington County appreciates the patience and understanding of its residents, businesses and their customers as staff followed procedures that place public health and safety as the highest priority.

The incident also affected portions of the Arlington-linked DC Water system, which has also been deemed safe following tests.

The section of North Glebe Road damaged by the break near Chain Bridge is expected to reopen to traffic Sunday afternoon. Because of the complexity of the break, permanent repairs and restoration will continue later this week, depending on the weather.

Earlier: A large portion of Arlington County remains under a boil water advisory, as crews make progress with repairs following a large water main break near Chain Bridge.

The boil water advisory is in effect until at least Sunday, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said Saturday morning.

N. Glebe Road, meanwhile, is still closed, but expected to open by Sunday evening — a shorter closure than the initial worst case scenario of extending into next week.

Among other neighborhoods, the boil water advisory is in effect along the Orange Line corridor from Rosslyn to Ballston. That has prompted changes at local stores and restaurants, from soda machines shut off to bottled water used to wash hands in bathrooms.

The CVS in Courthouse, meanwhile, ran out of most packs of bottled water on Saturday, the Washington Post reported, and Starbucks stores up and down Wilson Blvd are not serving hot coffee — leading some customers to get “a little nasty,” a manager told the Post.

More via social media:

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(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A large water transmission main serving Arlington ruptured early this morning amid falling temperatures, prompting major closures.

The water main break was first reported around 4:30 a.m. on the Arlington side of Chain Bridge. The northern end of N. Glebe Road, a portion of Chain Bridge Road and Chain Bridge itself were all expected to remain closed throughout the morning rush hour as a result.

(Chain Bridge and Chain Bridge Road has partially reopened as of 9:45 a.m. for drivers heading to and from D.C. and Fairfax County, VDOT said via Twitter.)

The rupture caused a portion of N. Glebe Road, on the hill leading to Chain Bridge, to collapse.

Large water transmission pipes run under the Chain Bridge, bringing water from the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant in D.C. into Arlington. The pipe that burst was a 36-inch transmission main, significantly larger than the typical 12-inch residential water main, WTOP reported.

Though as of 6:35 a.m. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) reported that “crews have stabilized the transmission main break and pressure is being restored to County water lines,” much of the Arlington’s water service was impacted and nearly half of the county remains under a precautionary boil water advisory.

The boil water advisory is “expected to last until at least Sunday, after a series of testing,” according to Arlington Alert.

The closure of Glebe Road, meanwhile, is currently expected to last at least into the weekend.

The repair of the water main is expected to stretch into late Saturday or even into Sunday, DES Chief Operating Officer Mike Moon tells ARLnow. The road could remain closed until Tuesday, though there’s also a possibility it reopens this weekend, Moon said.

More permanent repairs to the road may be necessary even after it reopens, according to Moon. DES officials are still assessing the situation and expect to provide more information to the public on Saturday.

“It’s a major repair,” said DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “Crews are working as fast as possible… but we don’t have a [solid] timeline for the repair and the restoration of the roadway.”

Moon noted that water service has been restored to most of Arlington thanks to redundancy in the system. There are three large transmission pipes that run from D.C. to Arlington — two hanging under the bridge, one under the river — that supply the county’s water, and there are multiple paths that the water takes into Arlington once its reached the Virginia side of the Potomac.

Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, have closed today (Friday) due to the lack of water service, though football games will be played tonight

Two community centers are also closed, in addition to all APS facilities. Libraries are open but patrons are encouraged to bring bottled water.

Local restaurants, meanwhile, are using bottled water and disposable plates amid the boil water advisory, according to Washingtonian.

More on the boil water advisory, from a county press release:

As a precaution, Arlington County has issued a Boil Water Advisory for customers in the eastern area of the County (excluding Crystal City) who may be impacted by a large water transmission main break at Glebe Road and Chain Bridge Road. (See area… on the map.) The break caused pressure drops in several locations across the County. The advisory is a safety measure because of the depressurization.

If you live in the affected area, you should bring your water to a rolling boil for three minutes then cool before:

  • Drinking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Preparing baby food and formula
  • Making ice
  • Giving to pets

Information will be shared when the advisory has been lifted. Check the County website for updates.

Map via Google Maps. Some photos via Arlington DES/Twitter.

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Up to 100 homes and business in the Arlington Forest neighborhood will be without water service Friday night into Saturday.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says a valve replacement is needed and the portion of the neighborhood east of Lubber Run is expected to lose water service around 7 p.m. Friday as a result.

Water is expected to start flowing again around 9 a.m. Saturday, DES said.

File photo

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The Ballston Beaver Pond is about to get a makeover, but a little later than originally anticipated.

In January, county officials re-initiated a public discussion on a redesign for the pond. The pond was originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. To the surprise of county officials, beavers moved in and made the pond their home. The beavers dammed up the drainage system and were joined in the habitat by muskrat, geese, ducks, heron, egrets, redwing blackbirds, fish, turtles.

The stormwater goals have since been further hampered by invasive vegetation and litter. But after some initial work 5-6 years ago, Arlington now hopes to transform the pond to something beyond its initial concept: it wants to turn the pond into a stormwater management facility and pedestrian-accessible wetlands.

“This pond receives runoff from more than 300 acres of urban and suburban land and represents the most feasible opportunity within Arlington for a larger regional stormwater management facility,” the county said on the project page. “Retrofitting the pond so it provides more water quality treatment helps the County comply with the municipal separate storm sewer system permit and contributes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay.”

Plans for the project include a boardwalk with informative signs and benches along the eastern edge of the pond.

Initial projections for the project had construction starting sometime this winter, but stormwater outreach specialist Lily Whitesell said the project is currently still in the permitting phase with VDOT. Once construction of the project starts, it’s projected to last 9-12 months.

“Once [permitting] is completed, it will go to procurement, likely in early 2020,” Whitesell said. “Then we will likely go to construction in summer or fall 2020.”

The fundamental design of the project remains the same, and Whitesell said the intense storm in July showed the need for expanded capacity at the pond.

There will be some closures during the project. Whitesell said the trail on the east side of the pond will be closed during construction, but the trail adjacent to Fairfax Drive that leads to the Custis Trail will remain open.

When the trail reopens, the wetland will be designed to revive the native wetland plants and habitat, like turtles.

“We anticipate that turtles, a wide variety of migratory birds, pollinators, amphibians, and other valuable wildlife will use the pond,” Whitesell said. “We’ve heard from local birders and other wildlife enthusiasts that they are excited about the new habitat benefits of the project.”

But despite the namesake, the county are not planning to bring beavers back to the park, and in fact will actively do all they can to keep them away.

“Unfortunately, beavers would reshape the land and potentially compromise the water quality and habitat goals of the project and pond safety,” Whitesell said. “Beaver baffles will be installed to discourage beavers from the pond area.”

Photos 2, 3 courtesy Arlington County

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Water service in parts of the Westover neighborhood may be interrupted tonight due to emergency water main repairs.

County crews are planning to dig up portions of the road to investigate a leak along the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, near the post office and the intersection with N. McKinley Road.

One eastbound lane of Washington Blvd is expected to be closed starting around 9 p.m. Water service may be turned off for some around midnight, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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