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.
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.