|Sediment from the Inova construction site is flowing into streams. [Photos by Kris Unger]|
While some efforts have been made to correct the problem, it’s not clear whether that is sufficient or whether there is any accountability for Inova or its construction crews.
|Wildlife on the Inova site depend on clean streams.|
He reported the problem to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality hotline. The Fairfax County Fire Department arrived within two hours but they didn’t think there was a problem.
Unger also complained to Fairfax County. David Humphrey, a supervising engineering inspector with the Fairfax County Site Development and Inspection Division, sent an email to Unger Oct. 25 stating that several corrective measures had been undertaken, including the removal of silt build-up, the installation of a silt fence and dams, temporary stabilization of the area over the outfall pipe, and landscaping.
However, when Unger visited the construction site on Nov. 3, he found “clear signs of inadequate or overwhelmed sediment control measures and fresh deposits of sediment runoff,” and again reported the problem to state and county officials, noting, “this is after the site had been reported, inspected, and fixed.”
Three days later, Unger and other members of FACC visited the property during a rainstorm and documented large amounts of sediment being washed off the construction site into a tributary of Holmes Run.
H. Keith Anthony, an engineering inspector with the Site Development and Inspection Division, responded Nov. 8, stating a rock berm had been installed across the entire width of the outfall channel to absorb the brunt of the runoff and that an additional silt fence and sodding would be installed.
It’s not known whether the project is in compliance, whether the initial design was adequate, whether there is adequate oversight, and whether there are any penalties or consequences for those responsible, Unger says.
If the county insists the problem has been fixed, he questions whether its definition of compliance is adequate. “Is what they’re doing good enough to protect the watershed?”
|Corrective actions don't seem to be doing job.|
That property had been undisturbed for years, allowing wildlife to flourish, including deer and foxes, Unger notes. A healthy stream free of sediment is really important to ensure biodiversity. FACC does a lot of stewardship activities, to reduce stormwater runoff, but “the work we do is completely dwarfed by something like this.”
“Inova is focused on health, and the health benefits of nature are obvious, he says. Patients at the new cancer facility under construction “would benefit from having nature nearby, and Inova can be an excellent steward of nature.”
He blames Inova and its construction contractors for destroying the watershed “without anyone really noticing and without any serious consequences.”
Unger believes that if he hadn’t complained to public officials about the runoff, no one would have done anything. Sediment has probably been dumped into Holmes Run for months before the problem was reported.
“I shouldn’t have needed to observe that site,” he says. And FACC, an all-volunteer organization, “is not in a position to judge a multimillion-dollar construction project.”