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NEW: Fairfax County might end leaf collection service, starting next year

Fairfax County offers curbside fall leaf collection services (courtesy DPWES)

The coming winter’s leaf collection season might be Fairfax County’s last.

The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has proposed terminating the leaf vacuum services it provides to thousands of residents after each fall, citing rising costs and “operational issues.”

A survey seeking public input on the recommendation has launched and will remain open until Aug. 18.

“During the 2022-2023 season, the program experienced numerous setbacks including collection delays, staffing shortages, a larger volume of leaves than normal, and inclement weather,” DPWES said in a news release. “After assessing the service, County staff propose to discontinue vacuum leaf service when the upcoming season concludes, along with the tax imposed for the service.”

Approximately 25,000 residents get leaf collection service through the county, according to DPWES, whose Solid Waste Management Program staff works with private contractors to vacuum up leaves from the curb three times a season, typically between November and January.

The collection areas are established through resident petitions and supported by a special tax based on property values. The eight areas that the county currently has are concentrated in the east, including parts of McLean, Idylwood, Bailey’s Crossroads, Lake Barcroft and Fort Hunt.

Last year, the county encountered delays in its leaf collections as it wrangled with staff shortages, equipment issues and an earlier-than-usual leaf fall.

DPWES says those issues could affect its ability to provide reliable service going forward, and customers have also raised concerns about lingering leaves disrupting public safety, including by:

  • Blocking storm drains, creating flooding concerns
  • Contributing to pedestrian and vehicle conflicts when pedestrians are forced to walk in streets
  • Creating fire hazards from vehicles parked on leaves
  • Presenting slip-and-fall hazards from people walking on slippery leaves
  • Reducing on-street parking

Other considerations include increased costs and environmental issues. DPWES grinds up the collected leaves into mulch that’s distributed at various sites for free.

From the press release:

The County is facing increased costs to provide vacuum leaf collection. Due to the need for an additional contractor, overtime for County employees and temporary contractors support workers, it is estimated the 2023 season will incur an approximate $900,000 deficit and another predicted $400,000 deficit at the end of fiscal year 2024. The service also conflicts with the County’s adopted sustainability policies to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

The upcoming 2023-2024 collection season will take place as scheduled, since residents were already charged back in January, DPWES says.

In addition to filling out the survey, residents can weigh in on the proposal to end services by leaving a voicemail or texting “leaf collection” to 703-890-5898, Project Code: 2159.

A final decision will be made this fall by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

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