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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Illegal dumping is a huge problem in Annandale parks

Trash found in the woods near Medford Drive, Annandale
By Elizabeth Kirchner

A drippy stack of soiled mattresses, spackle buckets brimming with larvae, dented metal drums seeping something you can smell. A mound of rotting baby clothes. This is what you’ll find in the maple and oak forests along Accotink Creek.

This stream valley is one of the finest wildlife corridors in Fairfax County, home to deer and fox. There are trout in the water and joggers on the Cross County Trail, but for people with a truck bed piled with rolls of cheap carpet and used tires—and no means or inclination to find legal disposal—the remote woods along Accotink Creek are just a place to dump their trash.

Illegal dumping is a chronic problem across the globe—from the  poorest settlements to the relatively affluent neighborhoods of Annandale. Now, national and global organizations are shining a spotlight on this furtive practice by harnessing environmental awareness, social media, and GPS to expose the impact of illegal dumping on health and the quality of life and find solutions.

Olivier Girion, a fine arts student at George Mason University, and a member of Friends of Accotink Creek, an environmental organization focusing on restoring and protecting water quality, walks along the creek banks looking for trash. “Illegal dumping is an old problem,” he says, “but now with our things becoming more disposable and infused with synthetic chemicals, we are finding how dangerous it is to the environment and drinking water.”

Girion maps his findings—sometimes they are real dump sites, and sometimes just tidy clusters of furniture and appliances standing in the rainy woods like somebody just got up to go to the kitchen. Then he uploads those data points to a worldwide “waste map” created by an organization called Let’s Do It! 

The waste map identifies dump sites along roads in Germany, sheep pastures in Ireland, even median strips at traffic lights in Annandale full of cigarette butts that will never decompose. Girion’s shocking photos of illegal dumping along Accotink Creek can be found on the website of the Virginia chapter of Let's Do It!

Let's Do It! participants document sites with cell phones or GPS devices, post photos to Facebook, host spring clean-ups to raise awareness and, with perseverance, take action.

“I think addressing the problem by bringing it to people’s attention is a step in the right direction,” Girion says. He hopes more people will begin mapping illegal dumping sites.

“Half the battle is locating where these places exist,” he says. Organizations like Neighborhood Watch and the Scouts, as well as walking, hiking, and geocaching groups that frequent the woods and paths carrying GPS units would be a big help.“This way I am not the only person mapping where these dump sites are,” he says. “If people aren’t interested in the cleaning aspect of it, but would be interested in locating them, it would be a great help.”

The Fairfax County Park Authority reported 166 acts of illegal dumping since spring 2007. Cleaning those sites cost $22,978.43—a large and strangely precise number, but the Park Authority estimated those numbers reflect only about 60 percent of incidents, and real clean-up costs in dump fees and labor might be closer to $100,000.

Fragmented enforcement responsibility and no funds to fight a chronic “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” problem mean there will be no immediate solutions to illegal dumping at the county level. For the time being, finding and documenting dump sites, raising awareness, and developing creative alternatives for people who carry out illegal dumping must be carried out at the grassroots level.


  1. I completely agree, I recently was walking along Hummer Road on a Sunday morning and came across an illegal dumping right on the side of the road. I took pictures of the dumping, tracked down the owner of the refuse and even snapped a picture of an unused condom laying there for kids to see and touch. The owner was a local girl that hired some lousy movers, they dumped the trash on the side of the road.

  2. I see trash along every roadside. I think it is even worse now that Prince William County got rid of all the illegal immigrants. They all came to Mason District/ Fairfax Co. and now the litter problem is growing and growing.

  3. Annandale is turning into a Central American SLUM due to the illegal immigrants. From the dumping, to the illegal housing (6 or 7 cars in front of tiny homes), to the infestation of the shopping areas by loitering illegal day's all gone to shit.

    I grew up here 45 years ago, and am in Annandale every day. It's so very sad.

    1. I agee. So sad that our Supervisor has done little when asked to help her constituents. We are the arm pit of Fairfax County. Mason District is not in their promotional brochures.... schools are also being overcrowded by all the illegals. It is a shame. I am moving soon.

  4. Xenophobia is a sign of social decline too. Rather than fearing what you don't understand, try constructive action: teach English to people from somewhere else, teach reading to middle school students, teach math and science to everybody. Volunteer for everything and complain to Penny and Gerry and Vivian in a constructive, thoughtful way. Liz Kirchner

  5. "Rather than fearing what you don't understand..."

    I think we understand people who have violated our laws to come here illegally, violate our laws by overcrowding the houses and streets, violate our laws by dumping waste everywhere, and violate many other laws every day.

    I think you're the one who doesn't UNDERSTAND something here. Open your damn eyes and see, and quit trying to deny reality, and quit trying to blame others. Please get some medical help for your terrible psychosis.

  6. Liz - It is not about Xenophobia. It is about having laws to keep a balanced and maintained society. Allowing illegals and anyone who wants to be here without proper citizenship causes overcrowding & limited resources. You talked about teaching illegals english? What about American CITIZENS who need the English tutoring, shouldn't they get the priority first? Like the other poster said, "quit denying reality".
    Most are fine with legal and proper immigration - which our country was founded on, but we need to use our limited resources for our citizens first. For what its worth, I am considered a 'minority' and its a slap to my face when people make this a racial issue. It is not. It is common sense that we serve our citizens first (no matter what race).

  7. The problem is that everyone is pointing their finger and blaming illegals for every single issue in their community. The dumping problem is a community-wide issue, including people from all ethnicities and backgrounds. Just yesterday I saw an American couple dump their drinks and a flyer outside their car onto the shopping center's parking lot. The most disgusting part was that they were just coming out of the fast-food place where they could have thrown the trash away and on top, there was a trashcan outside just a couple of feet away. And for all you smokers, guess what? You also contribute to trashing the community when you think it's okay to throw your cigarette butt out the window. And this is a community blog, so everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but there is no need to get your little feathers ruffled and start telling others "open your damn eyes" and ask them to get medical attention.

    And I agree with Liz. Do something to improve your community and discuss in a constructive manner. Sitting at home, responding angrily on a blog spot isn't going to further your cause.

  8. "Do something to improve your community"

    Ok, since our government (who is suppose to represent its citizens) won't do anything about illegals & day laborers, maybe instead of them standing around Little River - you can open up your home and have them stand around there instead.

  9. I moved to Annandale with my parents in the 1970's. Annandale is not what it used to be. We have many cultures who have immigrated here. We don't know how they were raised or what their neighborhoods were like growing up. Folks are creatures of habit. For those who litter our neighborhoods, one has to wonder how they were raised and what their home/apartment looks like. It's very sad. Perhaps more neighborhood clean-ups will help, but the cleanliness won't last for long, which is sad. It's as if no one cares anymore, or folks are deliberately intent on destroying our community. Too bad laws re: littering and destruction of property cannot be better enforced.