There is an unassuming pump station near Fort Ethan Allen Park in North Arlington that the county says is “a vital component” of its drinking water distribution system.
The Ethan Allen Pump Station, when needed, ensures proper water pressure for customers, says a spokesman for the Dept. of Environmental Services. But for several years, the Ethan Allen station has had a portable generator outside because the one inside is inoperable, according to a county report.
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is set to review a contract that would see the installation of a new permanent generator inside, which a staff report says will be less of an eye- and ear-sore for the neighborhood.
The Ethan Allen Pump Station is just one part of the complex system that cycles water from the Potomac River to your faucets and then to a wastewater treatment plant in South Arlington, near the county line. The $779,000 maintenance project, meanwhile, is part of a 10-year, $245 million maintenance schedule for the county’s water-sewer infrastructure, which in turn is based on a 2014 master plan aimed at ensuring the system meets current and projected water demands through 2040.
“These programs construct and maintain the infrastructure, facilities and equipment that provide safe, reliable and compliant drinking water, sanitary sewer collection and wastewater treatment for the county’s residents, businesses and visitors,” according to the county.
Arlington, D.C. and Fairfax County get their water from the Army Corps of Engineers’ Dalecarlia Treatment Plant in northwest D.C., which is fed Potomac River water via the Washington Aqueduct. The same treatment plant is responsible for the annual disinfectant change, taking place next week, which will add a slight chlorine taste to the water for hundreds of thousands of residents.
Some 7.5 billion gallons of water annually traverse about 500 miles of pipelines to enter Arlington’s apartments and businesses and single-family homes. Wastewater then goes to the Arlington Water Pollution Control Plant, which treats it before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
This system is built on all these parts — including a pump station in North Arlington — functioning. Sometimes, however, that infrastructure fails to deliver clean, colorless water, which is another issue the county is addressing.
Arlington has some old water mains that are prone to breaking particularly during inclement winter weather (which we have not had a lot of this year). With age also comes decades of deposited sediment and minerals, like copper, which can discolor water when disturbed.
While DES says this happens rarely, ARLnow has heard from readers, from time to time, who report discoloration issues with their water.
“In our case, the fouled and rust colored water is likely due to aging pipes,” Bluemont resident PJ Dermer recently told us. “At least this is what Arlington is telling us.”
Relief from discolored water, however, requires upgrading aging infrastructure.
“Replacement of water mains requires much resources and environmental disturbances like digging; lining an older main can solve an issue of water quality and requires far fewer resources and disturbances,” says DES spokesman Peter Golkin.
In the meantime, there are stop gap solutions, like county service workers flushing out the water mains.
Dermer said this week that he believes his complaints have gained traction, as the county is now working on replacing the water main and pipes along his street.
“Arlington’s drinking water is safe and meets all federal and state standards,” Golkin says. “When customers have specific concerns about their water service, we work diligently to address those areas of the system to their satisfaction.”
Water and water systems aren’t the splashiest area for spending on major infrastructure, at least according to one county-conducted poll of residents that asked about capital investment priorities.
Water Main Break in Rosslyn — Updated at 7:50 a.m. — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crew working on 8-inch main at [Fairfax Drive and N. Lynn Street]. Some 100 customers could be affected.” [Twitter]
New Va. Laws Taking Effect Today — “Several new laws become effective across Virginia on July 1. This includes legislation pertaining to health care, transportation, economic development and law enforcement.” [Arlington County, FFXnow, ARLnow]
Local Dems Set Up Roe Page — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee has created an online resource to provide information on abortion and the political implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling sending the matter back to states.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Brothers Write Birding Book — “Maxwell and Danté Julius stealthily slip through a dirt path that cuts a serpentine route through Arlington County’s Long Branch Park and Nature Center. They’re equipped with binoculars, cameras and a permeating curiosity about the native birds of their home county. Together, the high school brothers have created a ‘Guide to the Birds of Arlington, VA.’ But it’s much more.” [WUSA 9]
County Looking for Tree Adopters — “Arlington is home to approximately 750,000 trees – or three for every resident – and the local government is asking the public’s help in supporting them. The county government’s Adopt-a-Tree program is designed to help trees make it through dry seasons.” [Sun Gazette]
New Contract for Arlington-Based Raytheon — “The U.S. Army announced Tuesday its effort for a next-generation, software-centric ground system is transitioning to another phase. The service awarded $36 million each to software company Palantir Technologies and defense firm Raytheon Technologies for work on the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, which is currently under development. TITAN is expected to help connect sensors with users in the field to support beyond-line-of-sight targeting.” [C4ISRNET]
Missing Middle Piques Interest in F.C. — “It has become a very contentious issue in Arlington, with scores of citizens showing up at public meetings to weigh in, as Clark reported. It is clear to us that, despite smokescreen issues like trees and other environmental factors, the zoning change is feared most for its perceived potentially negative impact on home values, as well as for the issue of population diversity. The Arlington board will have a work session on the subject with the county manager on July 12 and is set to take a vote in the fall. Falls Church leaders should play close attention.” [Falls Church News-Press]
It’s July — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:48 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]
The Arlington County Board is set to approve a contract for a new water main.
The new main will serve the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn, and will run under the N. Rhodes Street bridge over Route 50.
“This contract is for the construction of a 12-inch watermain between 14th Street North and North Queen Street,” notes a county staff report. “This contract includes approximately 230 feet of 12-inch ductile iron pipe suspended under the North Rhodes Street / Arlington Boulevard overpass Bridge. The proposed water main will provide system redundancy and improved pressure in the neighborhood.”
At its meeting tomorrow (Saturday), the Board will consider a $1.14 million contract, plus an approximate $230,000 contingency, with Alexandria-based contractor Sagres Construction Corporation.
The new main will replace a smaller pipe that broke and has not been returned to service.
“The Fort Myer Heights Watermain Improvement project is part of the effort to interconnect water supply systems to ensure redundancy,” says the county staff report. “The old 6″ watermain under Route 50 that connected the two sides of the Fort Myer Height’s neighborhood was isolated and abandoned in place after a water main break. The proposed 12″ watermain will interconnect the two sides of the neighborhood and thereby provide the essential redundancy and improved water pressure.”
Residents in the area can expect some temporary traffic and water disruptions during the project. A construction timeline was not given.
Two eastbound lanes of Langston Blvd (Route 29) are blocked as a result of an extended, emergency water main repair in the Lyon Village area.
The work has been taking place just east of the intersection with N. Kirkwood Road/Spout Run Parkway since at least 8:30 p.m. last night. Inbound traffic on Langston Blvd experienced minor delays as a result of the lane closures during this morning’s rush hour.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said around 200 water customers are affected by the break in the 6-inch water main. Crews are now hoping to wrap up repairs by 3 p.m. today.
“Pipe and vault required extensive reconstruction at break point,” DES said in a tweet this morning.
Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crew working on 6-inch main at 3000 Langston Blvd. Some 200 customers could be affected. Estimated time for completion: 3/14/2022 9:00 PM. Traffic diverted around work site. Questions: 703-228-6555. https://t.co/i3mMGFOQ1z pic.twitter.com/6IGlVWIiIZ
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) March 15, 2022
Update: Estimated time for completed repairs now 3pm at the latest. Pipe and vault required extensive reconstruction at break point. Two lanes on Langston Boulevard closed. #VaTraffic
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) March 15, 2022
(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) Police have closed the intersection of S. Eads Street and 18th Street S. in Crystal City after a water main break.
The break has reportedly caused some indentations in the roadway that firefighters fear could becoming full-blown sinkholes if driven over. As a result, roads approaching the normally busy intersection, one block from the Crystal City Metro station, are closed and traffic is being diverted.
It may be an extended closure given the necessary repairs, according to scanner traffic. Crews are reportedly hoping to reopen the intersection by the evening rush hour.
In the meantime, the break may cause water pressure problems in the area, which includes several hotels and apartment buildings.
Update: The break appears to be affecting water service for at least two nearby buildings including a hotel. No estimate yet on a completion time for repairs.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 23, 2022
This winter’s storms and freezing temperatures have caused a spike in water main breaks.
Crews with the Department of Environmental Services’ Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau repaired 47 water mains in January, as of 6 p.m. Monday, with two repairs in progress and six planned, said DES spokesman Peter Golkin.
By comparison, January 2021 saw 30 main breaks, up from 19 in January 2020 and eight in January 2019, he noted.
Since Golkin provided those stats last night, two additional water main breaks have been publicly reported, in East Falls Church and Green Valley.
Golkin, who runs the DES Twitter feed, attributed the “above-average number of water main breaks” to “an unusually intense winter” in a recent tweet.
“Recent winters have been fairly mild,” Golkin tells ARLnow. “But we are seeing an upward trend for breaks over the past four years.”
Winter weather exacerbates the other reasons these mains break: age and materials used. Rehabilitating and replacing old water mains has been and continues to be a decades-long county effort.
Arlington has about 500 miles of pipes that bring water to homes and businesses. Of those, about 60% are cast iron pipes more than 50 years old — and thus prone to leaking.
“So age is a factor in the sense of which type of iron we’re dealing with,” he said. “Arlington’s cast iron pipes were not lined with a protective coating to prevent corrosion. While for the most part they’re in good condition, over time the inner and outer diameter thins. Then, factor in winter and the differences in temperature between pipe, water and surrounding soil and you get stresses on the pipes.”
When mains break, crews stop the flow of water, which can cause temporary service disruptions to some properties. Repairs can take six to eight hours from when leaks are reported but could take longer if they’re on a major water line and involve significant damage.
And right now, responding to leaks is a grueling job, Golkin says.
“Crew safety and health is always the preeminent concern in responding, especially with bitter temperatures, darkness and Covid protocols,” he said. “But our professionals know what’s required and can usually complete a job in 6-8 hours despite all sorts of conditions. And they have to be prepared around the clock, seven days a week.”
Saluting the Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau professionals who, in an unusually intense winter, make massive water main breaks look like they never happened. Literally the difference between night and day in less than 24 hours. #TheOtherFirstResponders https://t.co/8YbKyxDQSg pic.twitter.com/QWElkH1g5b
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 23, 2022
Per location data from the county’s online map of leaks and repairs, crews had to respond to the same address twice in a half-dozen recent cases. Golkin says that’s typical.
“Repairing a water main naturally generates stress on the line, which can lead to nearby follow-up breaks,” Golkin said. “So if a certain neighborhood has had a repair, then there’s an increased chance that another problem might soon develop on the same block.”
When multiple leaks happen concurrently, the bureau prioritizes repairs based on the number of residents impacted, he said.
“DES prioritizes by the impact of each break, so if there is a repair needed in a residential neighborhood, that would get first attention compared to a break next to office buildings closed for the night or a weekend,” Golkin said. “Sometimes a break doesn’t mean a loss of water service, possibly due to redundancy in the water main network. That can give the bureau flexibility in scheduling a repair.”
Water Main Break Repaired in Courthouse — A significant water main break on N. Courthouse Road, near Arlington police headquarters, was repaired in less than 24 hours by county crews over the weekend, after shutting down the road for an extended period of time. [Twitter, Twitter]
Pentagon City Apartment Building Sold — “The Millennium at Metropolitan Park — an apartment building located directly across from where Amazon.com Inc.’s first HQ2 buildings are under construction in Pentagon City — is under new ownership. Affiliates of D.C.’s The UIP Cos. Inc. and Hawthorne, New Jersey’s Churchill Living have purchased the 19-story, 300-unit building located at 1330 S. Fair St. from New York-based Clarion Partners LLC in a deal that closed Thursday.” [Washington Business Journal]
Driver Eludes ACPD on Four Flats — From Dave Statter: “Caught on video: An unusual @ArlingtonVaPD pursuit of a stolen car. While it was through heavy I-395 traffic it was low speed. The car had 4 flats thanks to police spikes.” [Twitter]
It’s Monday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 37. Sunrise at 7:20 a.m. and sunset at 5:21 p.m. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of rain showers after 1 p.m., mixing with snow after 4 p.m. Otherwise, mostly cloudy with a high near 43. [Weather.gov]
Local Home Sales, Prices Up — “The average price of a detached, single-family house that sold in Arlington County, Virginia, in December was $1,258,648. That is 17% more than the average price a year earlier, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.” [WTOP]
Crystal City Office Tower Sells for $188M — “The building at 1400 Crystal Drive, totaling 308,000 square feet, was sold in late December by affiliates of Lincoln Property Co. for $188.5 million, or $612 per square foot, to Starwood Capital Group, according to Arlington County property records.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro GM/CEO Retires — General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld will retire from Metro in six months, after more than six years running the regional transit agency. [WMATA]
More Water Main Breaks — From Arlington DES: “An unusually intense winter has triggered an above-average number of water main breaks, often during the cold, dark early morning when most people are asleep. Saluting the folks who respond. They’re not in it for the glamour. #TheOtherFirstResponders.” [Twitter]
Larry Finch Plaque Likely Coming to Zachary Taylor Park — “The proposal emanated from the Donaldson Run Civic Association to honor Finch (1933-2020), who lived in Arlington from 1966 and 2013 and was active in civic affairs – especially in the parks and ecological arena – for much of that lengthy period.” [Sun Gazette]
Gas Leak Closes Street — A natural gas leak in Crystal City closed S Eads Street for over an hour Tuesday morning as Arlington County Fire Department waited for utility crews to assess the situation. Buildings were checked and no gas was detected. [Patch, Twitter]
Small Business Program Launches — From Arlington Chamber of Commerce: “We are proud to launch our Small Business Accelerator Program, presented by Amazon. As the Presenting Sponsor of this program, Amazon will sponsor half of the membership dues to verified Small, Women and Minority-owned (SWaM) businesses located in Virginia joining the Chamber for their first year of membership.” [Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 47. South wind 9 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 5:15 p.m. Tomorrow we’ll see rain and snow before 1 p.m., then a slight chance of snow. High near 38. North wind 10 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Jamestown Elementary School is having an early dismissal today due to a “significant water leak.”
The announcement was made in an email to families.
“There is a significant water leak at Jamestown Elementary which requires us to close school early,” the school’s principal wrote. “Students will have early release at 1:00 PM so that the county can shut down the water. Lunch will be served to all students before they leave.”
“There will be NO Extended Day,” the email continued. “I apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you updated on repairs and plans for tomorrow.”
Jamestown, the northernmost public school in Arlington, was built in 1953.
Following the school’s announcement, a social media post from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said there is a water main break at or near the school and that some homes in the area may also be affected.
Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crew working on 6-inch main at 3700 N Delaware St. Some 50 customers could be affected. Estimated time for completion: 12/2/2021 6:00 PM. Traffic diverted around work site. Questions: 703-228-6555. https://t.co/i3mMGFOQ1z pic.twitter.com/oTdvr36ny7
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) December 2, 2021
Blue Line Reopens — “On Friday, October 15, normal service will resume on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. Intermittent delays are possible as the investigation into Tuesday’s derailment continues.” [WMATA, Twitter]
New County Website Launching Soon — “Arlington County Government is launching a new website, the first major refreshment of the County’s online presence in more than seven years. The site will launch Monday, Oct. 18. Users will continue to access the site by visiting www.arlingtonva.us.” [Arlington County]
Spotted: Bizarre Banner Bedecked Bus — From Nicole Merlene: “Outside the Courthouse today… What in the world? Civil service sure ain’t for wimps with crazies like this.” [Twitter]
Reuters Photo Shows Local Apartments — “A man sits on his balcony amid a sea of balconies at an apartment building in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Kevin Lamarque.” [Twitter]
New Utility Vault Near Clarendon — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Behold the 40-ton concrete utility vault installed under Washington Boulevard yesterday between N Kirkwood and Wilson. That stretch’s big safety upgrades and lane-shift makeover continues into next year.” [Twitter]
National Airport Getting Busier — “New data suggest the airport, which has had one of the most sluggish returns to normal(ish) performance in the COVID era, may be seeing better times for the rest of the year. New data from the trade group Airlines for America suggest that the airport will see just 11 percent fewer flights during the fourth quarter than during the same period in pre-pandemic 2019. That projected performance also is less than the 14-percent drop reported nationally, based on current flight schedules.” [Sun Gazette]
Water Main Break Closes School — Updated at 9 a.m. — Arlington Science Focus School is closed today due to a 6-inch water main break on the 1400 block of N. Lincoln Street that’s affecting about 200 water customers. [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]
Opening Date Set for Aquatics Center — The new Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center will open on Monday, Aug. 23, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced yesterday. [Twitter]
Local Org Resettling Afghan Refugees — “Besides Lutheran Social Services, the [Arlington-based] Ethiopian Community Development Council, the International Rescue Committee, and Catholic Charities do a lot of work to resettle Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] holders in this area. Christy McCaw of African Community Center DC Metro, the ECDC’s resettlement branch, says her organization needs leads on apartments that will rent to newcomers without proof of income.” [Washingtonian]
Broken Water Main Causes Pressure Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services yesterday: “A crew is stabilizing a broken water main that has caused pressure issues in the vicinity of Campbell Elementary School along S. Carlin Springs Road. Pressure should be returning to normal within the hour. Traffic diverted around work site. The break is on a 20-inch main. Greatest impact of pressure loss along Carlin Springs Rd from Rt 50 south to Columbia Pike and near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and George Mason.” [Twitter]
New W-L History Marker Under Consideration — “Four years after the installation of a marker celebrating the history of Washington-Lee High School was scotched by leaders of the county school system, a proposed revised marker – honoring the school now known as Washington-Liberty – is wending its way through the development process.” [Sun Gazette]
Next Community Convo with Police Chief — “Join Chief Penn and members of ACPD at the next Community Conversations with the Chief to share your thoughts on the future of policing in Arlington! Our next conversation will take place on Friday from 10 AM to 12 PM at Metro 29 Diner located at 4711 Lee Highway.” [Twitter]
Huske Signs Sponsorship Deal — “2020 U.S. Olympic medalist [and Arlington resident] Torri Huske announced that she’s signed a swimwear deal with TYR on Friday, making her the third high-profile swimmer set to begin their freshman year of college to do so. Huske, 18, will join Stanford University in the upcoming collegiate season. Terms of the deal have not been made public.” [SwimSwam]
Youth Baseball Team’s Championship Run — “Overcoming four tournament losses, the 9-under Arlington Storm Black managed to finish second in the Babe Ruth World Series. The Storm lost in the ultimate title game of the baseball tournament in Jensen Beach, Fla., by a 7-3 score, to Florence, Ala. The meeting was the fourth between the teams in the competition. About 90 minutes earlier that same day, Arlington had previously routed Florence, 11-1, to force a playback game between the two teams in the championship round.” [Sun Gazette]
Reminder: N. Glebe Road Closure — “All lanes of N. Glebe Road between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road, in the northern tip of Arlington, [are now] closed for construction… The nine-day closure is the culmination of the $10 million rehabilitation project for the nearly 50-year-old bridge over Pimmit Run, just before Chain Bridge. Between Friday, Aug. 13 and Monday, Aug. 23, crews will work to replace the entire bridge deck and its underlying beams.” [ARLnow]