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Saturday, July 14, 2012

FXCO sues EPA over stormwater runoff rules for Accotink watershed


Accotink Creek
Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation filed a joint lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) July 12 charging that federal regulations aimed at protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed would impose an unfair, costly burden on the county and homeowners.

The regulations impose limits on stormwater runoff aimed at reducing sediment build-up in Accotink Creek, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. The Accotink watershed covers 52 square miles, including parts of Annandale. 

According to the county, EPA’s requirements for limiting the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) on specific sources of pollution would require the county to reduce runoff into the Accotink watershed by 50 percent, at a cost of $500 million. 

The rules would also impose a significant cost on homeowners and commercial property owners, as they would be required to capture and retain, reuse, and or infiltrate stormwater runoff from their roof, driveway, and other impervious areas on their property. Any building projects, such as home additions or new development, could be required to retain all stormwater runoff from any expanded impervious area.

Environmental advocates believe the EPA requirements are necessary. “The health of the Chesapeake Bay and our local waters has been in the news and in our face for decades now,” says Jeanette Stewart, “and there has not been substantial improvement.” Stewart is the president and founder of Lands and Waters, a local conservation group, but stressed her comments are her own, not the organization’s official position.

“As uncomfortable and difficult it will be to meet the EPA requirements, the enforcement of those standards need to be adhered to,” Stewart says.

The county believes the proposed TMDL limits on stormwater flow provide no reasonable assurance that the targets can be attained or that they will correct the underlying problem. “We are absolutely committed to maintaining and improving water quality in Fairfax County and the Chesapeake Bay,” says Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. “However, we believe that regulations, whether federally or state imposed, must effectively address the targeted problem and be fiscally sound and realistic.”

“We don’t want regulations that set us up for failure,” says Mason Supervisor and board Vice Chairman Penelope Gross, chair of the board’s Environmental Committee. “The county believes that a more comprehensive approach will provide the sustainable improvements needed to improve the habitat of our streams and lead to restoration of the bay. We continue to work together with the environmental community, homeowners, and builders toward that.

An example given by Gross's office to increase permeable surfaces in Mason is the redevelopment of the Westlawn Shopping Center, on Annandale Road and Route 50. The old shopping center has been torn down, and the new one, being developed by Bill Page Honda, will have increased landscaping and more trees and will maintain the riparian buffer along Tripp’s Run.

16 comments:

  1. Could it finally be the EPA that stops Penny Gross' relentless paving of our paradise? Penny kowtows to developers in her relentless pursuit to pack every permeable inch of Mason District with illegally high density housing. Ignoring VA state law, Fairfax County zoning densities and common sense, Penny's pursuit of more taxable properties is ruining our neighborhoods. Every time we object to a project based on the fact that we already have flooding, Penny's response is "Oh well, a few more houses won't hurt."

    Our watersheds are FULL! Not just Accotink, all of them. It is entirely appropriate for developers to be forced to handle any runoff they create!

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    1. actually the little redevelopment things in annandale acres and ravensood ARE tiny compared to the magnitude of this problem. The development that caused this problem was all the suburban development from 1946 to the 1990s. The kind of stuff that the anti-infill crowd so loves.

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    2. To the person that thinks that the stormwater problems started in 1946: stormwater controls begin to be put in place in Annandale in the early 1960s. These methods were suitable for the type of infill that was allowed at that time(R1 -R3) Since the mid-90s however, dense infill developments have been put in all over the county and the stormwater facilities cannot contain this type of density. Penny herself admits that the stormwater network is crumbling and yet she and her cohorts continue to allow development that is not stormwater sustainable and flooding and destruction are occuing downstream of these developments as a result. She will not rectify these issues and I hope to hell that someone sues the county for inverse condemnation for what they have allowed to occur in the last 20 years.
      And as an official member of the anti-infill crowd, I would say that R1 - R3 density is exactly what we love and NOT what has caused the stormwater issues. Realize that whenever these infill developments are put in, the County makes a deal with the developer: You put as many houses as you want, but you the developer are going to maintain the stormwater facilities and we cannot be liable for it. Therefore, the County is actively off-loading stormwater maintenance to the homeowners on these properties. These are the type of things that are causing the stormater issues.

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    3. What an ignorant statement to say that less density caused the problem...
      stormwater facilities were put into place in the 1960's and worked just fine until the housing boom began in the mid 90s and the County did not keep up stormwater manangement for the the dense infill they were allowing. The stormwater system was designed for the R1 - R3 developments which the anti-infill crowd loves and it worked. But now the County is trying to off-load its responsibilities of stormwater managements onto the homeowners in these new PDH dense infill developments. Further they are now going to use our tax dollars to avoid owning up to its responsibilities and paying the piper for years of unjustified dense infill which is what actually caused this stormwater mess to begin with.

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    4. Low density apt complexes, and scattered TH developments are also part of the suburban development we have around here, began in the 1960s and were only continued in the 1990s. The little PDH's in Mason district that I have seen discussed on this blog are tiny compared to what was built as of 2000.

      Note, well, the EPA is concerned about the health of the Bay. The growth in impervious area connected with low density sprawl has been identified as a key problem for the health of the Bay. More true high density growth, and less sprawl around the region, would be better for the health of the bay.

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  2. I am so very disappointed that my county cares so little for the Bay and so much for the developers,

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  3. It is typical that Supervisor Gross would hold out Westlawn Shopping Center as an example for watershed protection. Wow, Bill Page Honda is planting a few more trees and barely maintaining the same bad stormwater runoff that is there now. Residents surrounding Bill Page Honda asked about putting in permeable parking lots. Oh that’s too expensive the lawyer and Page himself said. There is going to be less stores in the shopping mall and more parking lots so that the car sales business can spread out. That’s just so heart-warming that they care so much for the surrounding community and the environment. Great example. Why are our county officials so shortsighted?—It’s profit, greed, and power, stupid.

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    1. Hear Hear. Replacing a shopping center built in a car-centric, storm water-fearful era with a mildly modern design, energy-smart materials that reduce operating costs, and a current public aesthetic that prefers some trees to park under, throw in a bike rack, and a developer can not fail to reduce a site's impervious footprint and energy efficiency. Fairfax County development policy is not to thank, a national awareness pushing energy efficient design, trees, and bike racks is. To really walk the walk, though, and make Supervisors understand what we want (no floods, walkable/bikeable planning that generates business and community), we have to ride our bikes and put them in those racks. Plant trees at our own houses to reduce our own impervious surfaces. We have to be the change you want to see.

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  4. DC is spending a couple of billion. How can Fairfax county, with wealthier residents, not be able to afford 500 million?

    If we are so much on the knife edge, that does not speak well of the future of FFX county

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  5. If the EPA cracks down on FX County for this, it will not only put a 500m dent in their coffers, it would cut off the cash proffers they derive from dense infill and the subsequent tax profits.
    I am no fan of the EPA, but in this case, they may be the only way to stop Penny and Co. from destroying the existing neighborhoods with their dense infill, Planned Development Housing crap.

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  6. According to the action plan for the bay:

    We also consume more land per capita. The average household size decreased during the last 30 years, but the average lot size increased 60 percent.

    http://www.bayactionplan.com/2011/09/sprawling-development-poisons-the-bay/

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  7. I hope to learn why and how it would cost half a billion dollars.

    “Required to capture and retain, reuse, and or infiltrate storm water runoff” …”a more comprehensive approach will provide the sustainable improvements” These should have always been required, especially for contaminants (fertilizers, debris, …)
    "... will maintain the riparian buffer along Tripp’s Run.” It is on the wrong side of the creek. This was only an evasive reference by Mr. Page, by no means a commitment, much less a contract. I hear the demolition as I write, and fear the next few months will again prove their words (& hearts) hollow.

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  8. As part of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opposition to the EPA requirements, I would like to see a detailed comprehensive and environmentally SUSTAINABLE plan rather than just opposition to EPA's approach. They've had several years to develop a plan to respond to EPA's regulations.

    Penny Gross talks about more permeable surfaces. I would ask her to commit pen to paper and do some simple math as to how many permeable driveways and parking lots would be necessary just to offset the increased impermeable surfaces created by the Board-supported widening of the Beltway which is already dumping hundreds of gallons of highway runoff into Accotink Creek and other adjacent streams -- let alone begin to reverse the existing overload on these creeks that has resulted from building permits and development the County board has approved during the past 20 years when Ms. Gross has been representing herself as an environmentally sensitive County supervisor. As the old saying goes "Where's the beef?" What is the County's plan (and means to finance it) to begin to reclaim our streams????

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    1. Well said! We should start asking these same questions to Gerry Connolly, his opponent, and the two men running for senate. We've got Penny for 3 more years.

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