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Morning Notes

Adolescents Drive COVID-19 Vaccination Surge — “More than 52,000 Virginians in the 12-to-15 age group have received their first COVID-19 shot in the nine days since federal regulators authorized use of Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents. This means 1 out of 9 kids in this age bracket — there are 422,741 in total — are at least partially protected against the coronavirus in the lead-up to schools fully reopening in the fall. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Three Displaced by West Falls Church House Fire — Three people were displaced by a house fire in the 7000 block of Ted Drive in West Falls Church that caused approximately $25,000 in damages. Units from Fairfax and Arlington counties arrived at the two-story house at approximately 1:27 a.m. on Sunday (May 23). The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to have been accidental. [FCFRD]

Vienna Begins Water Flushing Program — “The Town will begin its annual Fairfax County water main flushing program today. It will run from today till 6/14. Work will not impact traffic or Town services.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Falls Church City Schools Rank Top in State — Falls Church City Public Schools was ranked as the top school district in Virginia by Newsweek magazine, which published rankings this week based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. A 14:1 student-to-teacher ratio and 97% graduation rate were among the factors that distinguished FCCPS. [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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It’s time for Fairfax Water’s annual flush, meaning the fire hydrants are flowing and the water might smell a little funny.

Every year, water companies flush their systems in order to clean out and remove sediment from water mains and pipes that have accumulated. This sediment occurs from internal corrosion as well as natural build-ups of iron and manganese.

It also ensures that chlorine contraction levels, which disinfect the water, remain steady since chlorine degrades in water over time.

The flush involves opening up fire hydrants and allowing water to flow freely. It may look like wasting water, but it ensures that sentiment, chlorine, and other materials are flushed out.

During this short period of time, Fairfax Water switches from using combined chlorine to free chlorine as their primary disinfectant.

Most of the year, combined chlorine — or chloramines — are used to treat drinking water. Produced by a chemical reaction between chlorine and ammonia, it’s not as effective as free chlorine in disinfecting water, but it can stay in the water longer.

Free chlorine acts faster than combined chloring to break up sediment, but degrades in a shorter period of time.

The use of free chlorine can also lead to the water tasting and smelling funny.

So, if you are taking a big gulp out of the tap and it tastes like pool water, that’s why.

If you or someone in your household is particularly sensitive to this taste and smell, storing an open container of drinking water in the refrigerator will allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Drinking water does have a shelf life, though, so it should be switched out regularly.

At the levels used in drinking water, both combined and free chlorine are considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency .

All of this flushing began at the end of March and is expected to run until June 14 for most of Fairfax County.

Nearly 2 million people in Northern Virginia get their water from Fairfax Water, including nearly all of the county and the towns of Vienna and Herndon. It is Virginia’s largest water utility company and one of the 25 largest in the country.

Both Herndon and Vienna get their water “wholesale” from the company, meaning a third party or utility has the right to distribute water but not have the capability to treat their own water.

The Town of Vienna runs its own flushing program in coordination with Fairfax Water. This year’s water main flush began on March 26 and will run through May 21 from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

Fairfax Water also highly encourages commercial and residential property owners to flush their system if they’ve had to shut it down for an extended period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. A thorough flushing is needed to clean out water that may have been sitting dormant in plumbing.

Water that remains stagnant for as little as two days can have mold, leeching, and other hazards in it that can lead to illness.

Photo by Pan Xiaozhen on Unsplash

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Northbound Lawyers Road from Maple Avenue will be closed for four to five hours today so that a water main break can be repaired, the Town of Vienna announced this morning.

The closure was expected to start around 9:30 a.m. It is not affecting southbound traffic on Lawyers going into Vienna.

The town also warned that water service to businesses in the area may be affected by the repair work.

Photo via Google Maps

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A contractor with the Town of Vienna started working to replace the water main on Broadleaf Drive NE between Beulah Road and Holloway Court NE today (Monday).

E.E. Lyons Construction will install approximately 1,000 linear feet of eight-inch ductile iron pipe to update a water main that was originally constructed in the 1960s, according to Vienna water quality engineer Christine Horner.

The town says the project is expected to take about six weeks to complete. Traffic will be controlled during construction using flaggers.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Apr. 27 of last year to award $1 million to E.E. Lyons for water system improvements throughout the town, including the installation of a new water meter and repairs to aging infrastructure.

Carrying an estimated cost of $216,000, the Broadleaf Drive water main replacement is one of about 26 projects encompassed by the contract. According to the town, individual sites have been prioritized based on water main break data, and work is being conducted in coordination with other town projects.

Construction first started in August on Center Street S. from Maple Avenue to Locust Street, and it continued in different locations throughout the town during the fall.

The projects funds came from a 2020 capital improvements project bond.

Image via Google Maps

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Restoration recently finished on a stream in McLean as part of Fairfax County’s larger efforts to improve water quality and reduce flooding.

Restoration started at Bull Neck Run, a stream just north of Tysons, in 2018 and included improving the ecological function of the stream and extracting nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.

Before the project, the banks of the stream were eroding and the stream bed was identified as instable.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust celebrated the project’s completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday (Oct. 21).

“Projects like this will help ensure the health of our watersheds for generations to come and I look forward to continue working with the community on these improvements,” Foust said in a press release.

The project cost $1.6 million and was funded through the county’s stormwater service district.

Lewinsville Coalition, a local advocacy group, provided input during the project’s design and construction, along with pushing for trails to stay open while work was underway, according to a press release from Foust.

“The work involved restoration of approximately 2,000 linear feet of Bull Neck Run and several tributaries and will remove 800 pounds of nitrogen and 71,000 pounds of suspended solids per
year,” according to the press release.

Work to restore the native trees along with other landscaping is expected to wrap up next month.

The project is the latest stormwater project completed.

Upcoming projects include the restoration of Dead Run toward Georgetown Pike and work on Tucker Avenue in Falls Church.

Photo courtesy John Foust 

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After seven months of work, construction crews finally refurbished the stream that cuts through a nature preserve in McLean.

Scotts Run Tributary is encompassed by the Scotts Run Watershed project.

Improvements to the stream included reducing sediment, improving ground nutrients, stabilizing the banks and improving the overall water quality for 600 feet of stream, Matthew Kaiser, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, said.

The project began in late November of 2018 and finished this July and cost Fairfax County $1.5 million, Kaiser said.

“Water quality benefits of the project include removal of 47 pounds of total phosphorus, removal of 238 pounds of total nitrogen, and removal of 15,132 pounds of total suspended solids per year,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote in his September newsletter.

The makeover also added setup pools, a reinforced pipe and stronger material, according to a Fairfax County presentation.

Photo via Fairfax County

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After major flash flooding caused widespread damage on Monday (July 8), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust shared how the county can better prepare for future storms and what steps are currently underway.

“It was horrific in certain areas,” Foust said. “It came by and went so fast.”

Foust said that while he wasn’t surprised by the damage from the flash flooding on Monday, it was the worst he has ever seen in Fairfax County.

Tysons Reporter talked to Foust about how work after the storm has been going around the Tysons area and what infrastructure improvements are needed to help the county weather the next big storm.

When the flooding started, Foust said he was inside his home during the brunt of the storm, waiting to get to his car parked outside. Eventually, Foust said he was able to get outside and drive to his office, which is nearby — “Pretty easy compared to what many had to go through,” he said.

Assessing the Damage

From a multitude of road closures to flooded backyards, from more than 55 water rescues to three missing chickens swept away, clean-up and assessment are still underway across the county.

In an email to residents last night (Wednesday), Foust urged people affected by the storm to submit information online to a disaster damage database to help the county with its damage assessment. People can submit reports until Wednesday, July 24.

“While owners are responsible for repairs on their property, the county could use this data to pursue disaster aid through the federal government to the extent such aid is available,” Foust wrote.

The Town of Vienna also tweeted about the database, writing, “Damage reports may impact what — if any– federal disaster assistance may be made available.”

As for the cleanup efforts this week, Foust said, “The county staff performed extremely well.”

Foust also praised the county’s work on stream restoration, which recently included Bull Neck Run and Dead Run Stream.

Road Work Underway 

Foust said that several improvement projects are slated to help roads weather serious flooding in the future, including Tucker Avenue and Chesterbrook Road in McLean.

The Tucker Avenue project will address flooding along the avenue from Birch Street to where it deadends at the Pimmit Run stream. Project design is set to start this summer, he said.

“It’s almost scary what happens on that road when it rains hard,” he said because of the road’s incline may make it the worst road for flooding in the McLean District. “Not a meandering stream but a roaring river.”

The Chesterbrook project at the intersection of Chesterbrook Road and N. Albemarle Street is set to add a larger pipe for more water. While the Virginia Department of Transportation had said that the project may start in the fall, plans have not been finalized, he said.

In addition to the work on those local roads, Fouse said that the Route 7 widening project includes elevating the road where Dead Run Stream regularly floods Route 7.

Preparing for the Next Big Flood

Going forward, “a lot of things need to be done,” Foust said to minimize damage from another major storm.

McLean and the general area around Tysons were built before stormwater management requirements, which the county is now trying to superimpose with a new system, he said.

Foust said that as changing weather patterns could see severity increase for future storms, he wants the county to prioritize funding stormwater management projects and work with developers of infill projects, which develops vacant or under-used areas within existing urban areas, to better manage stormwater sites.

“The funding is never adequate,” Foust said Capital Improvement Program funding for stormwater management projects. “You do the best you can with the resources you have. For available resources, we need to prioritize stormwater management projects more than in the past.”

Whenever the next big flash flooding hits, Foust said that he hopes for more notice from forecasters.

“It’s one thing when you see it coming,” he said.

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Dead Run Stream isn’t the only McLean waterway on the cusp of revitalization.

Bull Neck Run, a stream just north of Tysons, is nearing the end of project construction with completion scheduled for June.

Like the restoration finishing at Dead Run Stream, the Bull Neck Run restoration involves improving the ecological function of the stream and extracting nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.

The idea is to make the stream valley more sustainable and safer for private property owners along the stream, local wildlife and the public using nearby trails.

The project will reduce flooding from the stream, and stabilize the stream banks. Part of the project involves creating new outlets for stormwater draining into the creek to reduce erosion and tree loss in the nearby forest.

The total cost of the project is $1.6 million, funded through the county’s stormwater service district.

While the project is scheduled to be completed in June, landscaping work at the site could continue through the fall. Visitors to the site are still encouraged to remain outside of active construction areas.

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Vienna tends to flood. Recent heavy rainfall has not only impacted local streams, but locals may have seen high water in Vienna’s downtown area near the Town Green.

It’s an issue that town staff have been working for years to address, and solutions have been identified, but year after year have remained unfunded.

A report presented to the Vienna Town Council in December 2016 examined the state of Vienna’s sewer infrastructure, particularly at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Center Street N. in the center of the town.

The study found that there were places that experienced significant flooding where existing sewer infrastructure was unable to handle storm volume. Town staff confirmed that improvements suggested in the study were included in the CIP, but have yet to receive funding.

The report indicates that there are three major locations for flooding in three different areas. According to the report:

  • In moderate storms, flooding first occurs along Center Street at the location of the N Condos building and Starbucks parking lot.
  • In more intense storm events, flooding occurs in the area of the Freeman House Museum, at Church Street NW and Dominion Road NE.
  • Flooding also occurs near the intersection of Mill Street NE and Ayr Hill Avenue.

The report notes that flooding at the Starbucks is generally seen as the first sign of storm sewer capacity issues. The report noted that the ponding at these issues is more indicative of capacity problems than issues with draining.

“The ponding in all three areas of concern is a result of storm sewer surcharge, rather than surface drainage issues,” the study said. “This is evidenced by the ponding that occurs during a storm event and the rapid dissipation of ponded water immediately after the rain intensity subsides.”

The study assessed every outfall and junction in downtown Vienna and found that the system is unprepared for handling severe storms.

“The flow capacity of portions of the existing storm sewer system is insufficient to carry the stormwater calculated for a 10-year frequency storm,” the study said.

Ten-year floods are floods that have a 10 percent chance of happening in any given year, though there is some concern that this type of descriptor can lead to a false sense of security for those in areas prone to flooding.

Crucial to any fix to the local sewers, the study said, would be preventing flooding at the Freeman House and Starbucks, which are most prone to flooding.

The report recommended clearing debris and obstructions to sewer flow but that more substantial improvements will be needed over time.

“Even with clean sewers, the flow capacity in the piped portion of the system is lacking in two general areas,” the study said. “Sewer system improvements will be needed if the system is expected to move the flows resulting from a ten-year frequency storm, without undue flooding.”

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Morning Notes

New French Bistro Coming to Mosaic District — “Brothers Ian and Eric Hilton are betting third time’s a charm for the Mosaic District space where both RJ Cooper’s Gypsy Soul and Mike Isabella’s Requin Brasserie imploded. The restaurateurs behind Chez Billy Sud, Marvin, and around a dozen other bars and restaurants will open a French bistro in the Fairfax development by early summer.” [Washingtonian]

How to Prevent Clogged Pipes — “Avoid clogged pipes this holiday season — don’t pour fats, oils and grease down the drain. Wipes pots and pans clean before rinsing them in the sink. Cooking oil can be recycled at the I-66 transfer station and I-95 landfill complex.” [Twitter]

Holiday Hours for Tysons Malls — “Many malls will be offering extended hours in the days before Christmas, including Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.” [Patch]

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