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Friday, March 2, 2018

Concerns raised on Vulcan project

Railcars on the Vulcan property. 
About a dozen people spoke at a Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing March 1 on a rezoning application from Vulcan Materials Co.

Among residents who live near the Vulcan concrete facility on Industrial Drive in Springfield, the main concern is about the potential health risks from Vulcan’s proposal for an asphalt plant. Representatives of nearby businesses complained that railcars making deliveries to Vulcan are blocking local roads. 
A map of the Vulcan site showing the location of the rail spurs. The area in red is the buffer between the Vulcan property and the Edsall Park community. 
The Planning Commission deferred a decision on the application until March 8. 

Vulcan has applied to rezone its property so it can replace some of its existing buildings, modernize and consolidate its two concrete batching plants, raise the height of the silos from 75 to 135 feet, improve internal circulation, and make other improvements.

The application would also allow Vulcan to build an asphalt plant at some point in the future. Neither the company nor the report by Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff provided any details on the asphalt proposal.  

Several people urged the Planning Commission to remove the asphalt plant from the rest of the rezoning application and consider it later when Vulcan is ready to proceed and there is an environmental analysis.

Grail Hardy, president of the Spring Valley Forest HOA, for example, said fumes from an asphalt plant could be a health hazard. “We just don’t know how this will affect people’s health and how it will affect our neighborhood in terms of property values,” said Ruth Mass of Edsall Park.

Air quality would be monitored and regulated, but odor could be a problem, said Commissioner James Hart (at-large), who noted odor “could affect the enjoyment of neighboring properties.”

A Planning and Zoning Department staff member responded that odor is subjective and, unlike noise, there’s no way to measure it or determine an acceptable level. She said the staff didn’t find the asphalt plant to be a problem as it would be on a 100-acre site surrounded by heavy industrial uses.

Even if an odor doesn’t create a health hazard, it still has an adverse impact on property values, said Annandale resident Craig Blakely. A “skunk farm” isn’t harmful, he noted, but who would want to live next to one?

The use of railcars – on three Norfolk Southern railroad spurs – is the most efficient way to deliver materials to and from the site, said Vulcan’s representative, Lori Greenlief, with the McGuire Woods law firm. If railcars, aren’t used, the alternative would be 227 truckloads every day.

According to Greenlief, railroad engines push as many as 50 railcars onto the Vulcan property. Electronic Drive, Industrial Drive, and Tiros Drive are blocked twice a day but not all three at the same time, she said. She claimed the blockages last no more than 13 minutes in the morning and 17 minutes in the afternoon.

Commissioner Julie Strandlie met with some business owners on site the morning of March 1 and reported the train blocked Tiros for just six minutes.

Joseph Hadeed, of Hadeed Carpet on Electronic Drive, told the commission the blockages vary and there have been times when roads have been blocked for much longer. And when there was a fire at NAPA Auto Parts a month ago, firetrucks were delayed.

Jay Rodenbeck, of the Planning and Zoning Department, said officials at the local fire station had no recollection of any instances where a train prevented them from getting to a fire.

The Vulcan concrete plant.
Greenlief said in an emergency, a railroad engineer could flip a switch to decouple rail cars and let an ambulance through or the entire train could be moved out of the way.

Bob Perrotti, also with Hadeed, called the anectodal information presented by Vulcan “absurdly optimistic.” Shoving 50 railcars along the spurs can take up to half an hour twice a day every day. If the company is allowed to expand, the delays will only get worse, he said. “Vulcan is only one of a bunch of companies here. They are dictating how we conduct our business.”

To address concerns about road blockages, a development condition was added to the rezoning proposal calling for a citizen committee to be set up to work with Vulcan on road blockages, emergency access, a better system for notifying businesses about the train schedule, and related issues.

Patrick Taves, an attorney representing Arlington County’s proposal for a bus repair and maintenance facility on Electronic Drive, said a committee with no teeth isn’t good enough. Instead he called for a permanent solution, such as a limit on the number of railcars.

The county staff member agreed the railcars cause a conflict, but there’s no definitive answer to what Vulcan can do about the road blockage, as it doesn’t control the railroad.


  1. The odor of asphalt may not be a health hazard? Are you kidding me?

    Never in my life have I had worse, more persistent, and harder-to- relieve headaches as when I've inhaled the fumes from projects such as resurfacing roads--and that has been relatively minimal exposure. You don't need a clinical study to figure out why.

    Yes, anyone who says it's not harmful MUST be kidding.

  2. Please consider signing an online petition opposing the asphalt plant:

    1. Done--thanks for the link!

  3. Grail Harte3/7/18, 3:49 PM

    Contact Grail Harte at for much more information about the asphalt plant project. It will be emailed to you.