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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Neighbors concerned about proposed asphalt plant

The Vulcan property, showing the proposed changes.
As the Fairfax County Planning Commission prepares to hold a public hearing on the proposed expansion of the Vulcan concrete plant March 1, nearby businesses say their concerns about railroad deliveries blocking roads haven’t been addressed. And now new concerns are being raised about Vulcan’s future plans to build an asphalt plant.

Vulcan Materials Co. is seeking a rezoning so it can install a new concrete batching operation and replace and reorganize some of the buildings on its huge property on Industrial Drive near Interstate 395 in Springfield, and at some point in the future, construct an asphalt plant.

The asphalt plant raised some red flags among residents of Edsall Park and Spring Valley Forest during a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) Feb. 27.

An asphalt plant will spew cancer-causing toxins into the air, even with filters, said Jack Grizzard of Mitchell Street, one of several residents who complained about the prospect of hazardous pollution. “I can’t believe Fairfax County will allow this so close to schools and neighborhoods,” he said.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Lundy Updike of Spring Valley Forest, who raised concerns about the possibility of more trucks, as well as pollution, if an asphalt plant is built. There are 10 to 25 trucks ignoring stop signs and speeding through the neighborhood every day already, she said.

The MDLUC didn’t take a position on the proposal, other than to agree that the asphalt plant not be considered until Vulcan provides more details. The committee also said more factual information is needed on the extent of the road blockages and the impact on access by emergency vehicles.

When the MDLUC discussed the proposal in January, several representatives of businesses complained that deliveries to and from Vulcan via Norfolk Southern railroad spur block Tiros Drive and Electronics Drive for as long as 45 minutes twice a day.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, Vulcan’s representative, Lori Greenlief, a senior land use planner at McGuire Woods, said the railroad pickups and deliveries stop traffic for only abut 12 or 13 minutes in the morning and 15 to 17 minutes around noon.

While there’s a state statute that prohibits standing trains from blocking a road for more than five minutes, Greenlief said that is pre-empted by a federal law and the only time the train is standing is during a mandatory safety check at Tiros Drive.

To address community concerns about the railcars, she said Vulcan would post signs about the delivery schedule and set up a committee of local business owners and residents.

That’s not enough, according to business owners. One man with 100 employees said the streets are blocked for 45 minutes during lunchtime, preventing people from getting back to work on time. That results in 20 to 60 hours of lost production time every week, he said.

Corey Rodgerson, the owner of Climate Heating and Cooling, called the train blockage a safety issue. There was a car fire on Feb. 26, he said, and if the roads were blocked, emergency vehicles couldn’t get through.

“The notion of a warning sign is absurd. They have to eliminate the problem,” said Bob Perotti, of Hadeed In-Home and Office Cleaning Services.

Greenlief noted that Norfolk Southern policies require trains to move out of the way or decouple if emergency vehicles need to get through. When pressed on the need for a permanent solution, she said moving the tracks or adding an overpass would not be financially feasible.

Jay Rodenbeck of the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff, which approved the proposed project, said fire stations are warned in advance when the roads will be blocked.

“Vulcan hasn’t budged very much,” said J. Patrick Taves, an attorney working on Arlington County’s proposal to build a $25 million bus maintenance facility on Electronic Drive. “Vulcan is asking for a blank check from this committee,” he said, noting that the company isn’t addressing the access, blockage, or safety issues.

Arlington isn’t backing out of the project but is concerned about the added costs if buses are stuck waiting for trains, Taves said. “We hope to get some reasonable accommodation.”

The Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff recommended the Vulcan project be approved, with one major exception: The staff rejected Vulcan’s request of a waiver of a requirement for a trail through the property. The company wants to build a sidewalk on the edge of the property instead. 


  1. I think the Fairfax County Planning & Zoning staff should have to serve time living in these communities before approving these projects. There is so much wrong with this approval not to mention the hazardous chemicals will be spewed into surrounding communities. I wonder if the company had to provide a list of these and who at Fairfax County would be qualified to determine how much is too much. I get this is an industrial area, but heavy industrial usage without considering health & welfare is crazy.

  2. Poor Annandale. While McLean and Tysons are getting metro stations, here we are getting an asphalt factory. Thanks Ellie for writing about this, you are doing an important service. Maybe Vulcan Materials should move somewhere that isn't right next to thousands of houses, down in the other parts of Virginia that we subsidize with our taxes?

  3. Fairfax County Dept of Zoning, Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, have you all even stopped to consider anything but the tax revenue, which may be reversed as homeowners and business unwilling to put up with asphalt toxins elect to leave Fairfax County, or may be eaten up by the effects of lawsuits??

  4. If the trains are only stopped in the roadways for a "mandatory safety check", why would Vulcan report that the duration of the stop times are different with the noon stop taking longer? Wouldn't they require the same amount of time?

  5. I'm totally against the asphalt plant being built so close to residential areas in Edsall Park. I am concerned about air quality and how this plant's operation will affect the health of thousands of people living in this area. I'm totally opposed to this plan.

  6. Is the county willing to Purchase my property at full market value if this is approved? Can the county afford to loose all the money from all the class action law suites that will ensue. Where is the environmental impact statements needed. and mostly why would they allow this to happen next to The St. James Sports and Active Entertainment Center that is being built. Is the Fairfax County Planning & Zoning staff Crazy?

    Asphalt plants mix gravel and sand with crude oil derivatives to make the asphalt used to pave roads, highways and parking lots across the U.S. These plants release millions of pounds of chemicals to the air during production each year, including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and cadmium. Other toxic chemicals are released into the air as the asphalt is loaded into trucks and hauled from plant sites, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and very fine condensed particulates.

    Asphalt fumes are known toxins.

    The federal Environmental Protection Agency states, “Asphalt processing and asphalt roofing manufacturing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such a formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation.”

    The Blue Ridge Environ-mental Defense League, a North Carolina regional environmental organization, has done a study on the adverse impacts on property values and health for residents living near asphalt plants. A property value study documented losses of up to 56 percent because of the presence of a nearby asphalt plant.

    In addition to smokestack emissions, large amounts of harmful fugitive emissions are released as the asphalt is moved around in trucks and conveyor belts and is stored in stockpiles. Stagnant air and local weather patterns often increase the level of these pollutants that are released from a facility. Yet government agencies sometimes use computers and mathematical formulas to estimate these emissions rather than actual stack testing. Experts agree the estimates do not accurately predict the amount of toxic fugitive emissions released and the risks they pose. Only 40 percent of the emissions from asphalt plant smokestacks meet air quality standards and for the other 60 percent of these emissions, the state lacks sufficient data to determine safe levels.

    Be safe. Take precautionary action to protect our community from asphalt plant air pollution!

    References: US EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Fifth Edition, Volume 1, Chapter 11,

  7. "Hi All:
    Re: Tonight’s (3/8/18) Planning Commission meeting – “Decision” only defered
    About 11:00AM, I received an email from Penny Gross stating that the Planning Commission will defer (again) the “decision” about the rezoning of the Vulcan Co property, which includes the dreaded asphalt plant, until March 15
    The Planning Commission meeting, scheduled for tonight, will still take place. The Vulcan Co. application is still on the agenda. I called the commission office and was told that it is the plan for Julie Strandlie, the commissions Mason District representative, will make the motion to defer, and tell the other members the reasoning for the motion. There will likely be some discussion about why.( Increased public interest, need for more information, and to discuss a time for the commission members to visit the asphalt plant near Cameron Station.)
    If the above information is accurate, the “full on” commission discussion will take place on March 15th at 7:30 at the Government Center, 12000 Government Center, Fairfax, VA
    Of course, this can also change. Stay tuned.
    I leave it up to you as to whether or not you want to attend both meetings. I will be going and will report back to all of you. You can also view tonight’s proceedings on Channel 16.
    Meetings and more meetings
    There has been some confusion about so many meetings going on. Here is some recent info:
    Feb. 28 - Land Use Committee meeting was held at Penny Gross’, Mason District Supervisor, office. on Columbia Pike. The short version is that many attendees found out, for the first time, that the Vulcan Co. application included a request for rezoning of their property to include the building of an asphalt plant.
    March 1. - Planning Commission held a Public hearing at the Gov. Ctr. In Fairfax. Most of the people who testified at the hearing stated objection to the asphalt plant, and the train blocking the road. You can view these proceeding on
    March 6 – Board of Supervisors deferred their discussion and vote on this matter because the Planning Commission had deferred theirs and hence the Board did not have a commendation to give to the Supervisors.
    March 8 – Planning Commission is supposed to defer again. Please read the beginning of this email
    March 15 – Planning Commission meeting – To discuss and vote upon the Vulcan application. This may change. The result of their vote is then sent to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation to approve or not approve.
    March 20 – Board of Supervisors has tentatively placed their discussion and vote to approve or not approve on their agenda. This may change.
    The good news is that those of us who are against the plant have at least one additional week prior to the Planning Commission decision to contact them, and even longer to contact the Board of Supervisors.
    Don’t get overwhelmed! We are doing our best to get info out to you in a timely manner
    Keep those emails and letters of opposition going to your representatives..
    Grail A. Harte
    Spring Valley Forest Community Association (SVFCA)
    5106 Colebrook Place.
    Alexandria, VA 22312-2145


  9. The health of hundreds of people, living, working, worshipping, playing, and enjoying their properties is at stake here. Then there is the huge problem of devaluation of all those reidential properties, businesses, churches which would lose a great deal. It's one thing to make concrete, with all of its particulates and noise, close by. But to wrongly subject all of the surrounding communities to the resulting asphalt odor and pollution is criminal.

  10. Annandale Blog writers, thank you for publishng. Please spread the word to the local television stations.