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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fairfax County disputes claims that Inova construction project is harming the environment

Fairfax County has taken exception to the post in the Annandale Blog on Nov. 13 that described the failures of Inova’s contractors to keep sediment out of the Holmes Run watershed during the construction of the Inova Center for Personalized Health on Gallows Road.

The following response was submitted by Anne Cissel, public information officer at Land Development Services/Fairfax First:

Fairfax County Land Development Services takes its role as stewards of land development codes and regulations very seriously. We would like to offer a more complete picture of the erosion and sediment control issues that have occurred at the Inova site, which you discuss in your recent blog post, “Sediment from Inova project is damaging the watershed.”

To start, the title of the piece is an opinion, not a fact. Our inspectors have not found evidence that large amounts of silt have damaged the watershed or have been “dumped into Holmes Run for months.” The pictures are misleading as well, like the first picture, which is captioned “Sediment from the Inova construction site is flowing into streams.” There are two issues with this caption:
  1. If the picture had been taken a bit further back, it would have captured several “check dams,” which are erosion and sediment controls that further filter the water coming off the site.
  2. You cannot judge whether water is sediment-heavy by its color. Erosion and sediment controls are not meant to produce crystal clear water. 
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has been involved at every step of our efforts to improve the erosion and sediment controls on this site, and they are satisfied that the property owner has responded appropriately and quickly to the complaints. The developer has completed the requested improvements, including removing the silt build up, installing berms and additional silt fences, and stabilizing the area over the outfall pipe. They are in compliance with state regulations at this time.

Our area has received a record amount of rain this year – by Oct. 31, we already received more than 10 inches above the average yearly rainfall. The volume of water – and the lack of time to remedy problems in between events – has challenged many of the over 1,500 active construction sites in Fairfax County. On this particular site, the rain events have delayed the installation of sod, which would stabilize the site further.

The county is continuing to work diligently with the developer of the site and the civic groups that have raised concerns about the erosion and sediment controls. Your blog seeks to educate our community about the potential impacts of local development. In the future, please contact us before publishing so that your audience can benefit from hearing the county’s perspective on the issue.


  1. The county didn't get involved in the Inova flooding problem until the Accotink environmentalist pointed out what was happening on the site. The county was not aware of it until then and of course the county had to do something quickly. The developer didn't do anything either until the issue was pointed out by the Accotink representative. The county doesn't get to reprimand the Annandale Blog for telling the community about what is going on. It's nice to hear that the county is admitting that there is a tremendous amount of water events happening far too often--10 inches over normal--that they are not prepared to handle. I wish I could believe the county is really trying to do the right thing, but as the Annandale Blog reported before there is a proposed development on Gallows Road that would build 72 units on R-2 single-family housing zoning. On the proposed development property, there is already flooding happening now from a stream that the county and the developer do not want to have to determine whether or not has turned into a perennial stream. That would cost money and time for both the developer and the county. And if the stream has to be re-designated as a perennial stream that would require the developer to treat the land differently for preservation before anything could be built.

    Obviously, from this article, the county does not like to be challenged on how it does things. The county is not now taking under consideration its current 1940's stormwater infrastructure before approving the next development. They treat it like the land is not connected to anything else. I thank and appreciate very much the Annandale Blog trying to educate Mason District and Fairfax County about what is happening in our county.

  2. The check dam was only added after the initial report to DEQ. If the report hadn't happened none of the remedial action steps would have been taken as no one appeared to be monitoring this site other than the contractor. Perhaps there is a structural problem of not enough inspectors and that is a substantive step that could be taken by the county to avoid this situation in the future, rainy or not. But it does speak to the county's willingness to allow these violations without being proactive. They trust these contractors to do the right thing and this one obviously did not. Methinks they doth protest too much! This statement really tells the story: "The developer has completed the requested improvements, including removing the silt build up, installing berms and additional silt fences, and stabilizing the area over the outfall pipe." These improvements would not have been requested if this initial report had not been done. Thanks Kris Unger and Friends of Accotink Creek for revealing the truth.