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Water pipe (image via Marco Bicca/Unsplash)

If developers are willing to invest in boosting sewage infrastructure with their new projects, Fairfax County is willing to foot part of the bill.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a new policy (page 621) on Tuesday (Dec. 6) that would allow the county to reimburse developers for the cost of building enlarged sewage facilities to help grapple with wastewater. This change also means a slight sewer bill increase for local residents.

“The proposed policy recommends reimbursing developers for the cost of constructing an enlarged sewage facility based on the County’s share of existing and future wastewater flow,” a staff report sid. “Future flows are based on buildout described in the Comprehensive plan. The developers will be responsible for the cost that is equal to the proportional share of the enlarged facility that conveys flow exclusively from their development.”

The report said the current policy for reimbursing developers for enlarging sewer facilities is outdated and has not been used for 20 years.

According to county staff, the county’s pro-rate share of costs for eligible projects over the next two fiscal years would be $22.5 million or less. That cost will likely come from a 20-cent-per-month increase to the average sewer bill for residents.

According to the report:

This estimated amount would be paid out over several fiscal years, because potentially eligible projects are in various stages of plan review and approval and reimbursement will not be issued until construction milestones are met. To account for the proposed policy, staff anticipates recommending an additional increase of $0.20 per month on an average sewer bill for residential customers and an additional increase in Availability Charges of $182 for single-family homes and $146 for townhomes and multi-family homes.

While the change does mean a sewer rate increase for residents, the report said the financial burden of boosting local sewer infrastructure is lessened by sharing that cost between the county and local developers.

“By cost-sharing with private developers, all current users benefit from improved sanitary sewer infrastructure that reduces the potential for sewage release into the environment, and all rate payers benefit from reduced sewer maintenance and replacement costs,” the report said. “Without this policy, the cost to upsize sewer facilities as required by current County Code could disproportionately impact smaller development projects.”

The proposal was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“This is a helpful, important motion,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “This is a big turning point in terms of our ability to deal with managing growth and sewers.”

Image via Marco Bicca/Unsplash

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Herndon will work with Fairfax Water to add a pump station next to the police station (via Town of Herndon)

A pump station proposed for the Herndon Police Department site will be able to process 10 million gallons of water per day, town staff say.

The station is part of a broader retooling of Herndon’s Utility Master Plan, which outlines how the town will bolster its water infrastructure in preparation for development around the downtown and future Metro station.

Presented to the town council in 2017, that plan anticipated the town would need to increase its water capacity by an additional 1 million gallons per day by 2025. The town purchased new storage in 2018, bringing its total capacity to 5.7 million gallons per day, according to a staff report by the Herndon Department of Public Works.

However, a shift in development trends in favor of residential construction over commercial led staff to revisit its earlier estimates and conclude that a new pump station would make more sense than the previous plan to add two transmission mains.

“This would allow us to get the additional capacity that we will need in a much more economical and reliable fashion than our previous plans estimated,” Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works Tammy Chastain told the town council during a work session on Tuesday (Oct. 4).

The new pump station will be on the police station property at 397 Herndon Parkway, where it can be connected to an existing 24-inch-wide pipeline that runs parallel to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The town council is slated to approve a pending agreement with Fairfax Water for the project on Tuesday (Oct. 11), kicking off the design process.

Fairfax Water would be responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the facility, while the Town of Herndon would cover the design and construction costs.

“They are the ones that are going to have to upgrade it and maintain it,” Chastain said. “If it needs major repairs, we’d probably be helping in funding that. It’s only for us right now, which is why we’re paying the full cost.”

Right now, the estimated cost is nearly $5 million — higher than what town officials suggested before initiating an engineering study in 2019 but lower than the over $6 million that would’ve been needed for two transmission lines, according to Chastain.

The funding will come from the federal COVID-19 relief that the town was allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act, which included water and sewer projects as a viable use of the money, Town Manager Bill Ashton confirmed.

“This is good news because we’ve been planning for this for years,” Mayor Sheila Olem said. “Unfortunately, we went through Covid, but now, we’re getting this funding for something we knew we were putting in anyway. This is great.”

The pump station is “a step amongst several” in Herndon’s utility plan, Ashton said. At some point, the town will also replace its storage tank on Alabama Drive with two smaller tanks that the pump will fill.

Since the station will be right next to the W&OD, Councilmember Sean Regan questioned how it might affect the greenery alongside the trail and whether anything will need to be replaced.

Ashton responded that the potential impact on green space is “a design consideration we would certainly look at.”

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Morning Notes

Lewinsville Park basketball courts in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

McLean Police Shooting Not Justified, Family Says — The parents of Jasper Aaron Lynch, who was fatally shot four times by a Fairfax County police officer during a mental health crisis call on July 7, said in a statement that the police “could have, and should have, handled this far differently.” Their comments came after the county police department released footage of the encounter. [WTOP]

Bailey’s Crossroads Car Dealership to Expand — “The Radley Acura dealership on Columbia Pike near Route 7 in Bailey’s Crossroads will undergo a major expansion. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning application Aug. 2 by Radley Management LLC to build a three-level parking garage with 307 spaces and an enclosed customer service drop-off addition.” [Annandale Today]

New Metro Safety Issues Raised — “Metro needs to inspect, clean, and protect Metrorail station rooms that house equipment that detects when trains are on tracks and helps the system avoid crashes, the agency’s safety oversight body said in a report released Thursday. The report further said that Metro had failed to follow through on inspections after the issue was raised in March.” [DCist]

County Pension Fund Doubles Down on Crypto — “Fairfax County, Va.’s $6.8 billion pension fund, the Fairfax County Retirement Systems, has received approval to invest $70 million across two crypto yield farming funds…The $1.8 billion Fairfax County Police Officers Retirement System has made a series of crypto investments in the past alongside the Fairfax County Retirement Systems” [CoinDesk]

Funds for Water to Historic Hall Approved — “The Fairfax County Park Authority Board approved a Mastenbrook Grant request from the Great Falls Grange Foundation (GFGF) in the amount of $20,000 to help install a municipal-connected water line to service the Great Falls Grange…The overall vision for this site is to serve the community as a self-supporting gathering place, a location for classes and a place to hold special events.” [FCPA]

Decision on Maryland’s Beltway Toll Lanes Coming — “With the U.S. Department of Transportation poised to issue its decision on an ambitious Capital Beltway and I-270 toll lanes plan, Montgomery County’s top planner accused state highway officials of running roughshod over Maryland law,” echoing similar complaints leveled by McLean residents over Virginia’s 495 NEXT project. [Maryland Matters]

Poll: What Does “Alexandria” Mean to You? — “One of the very first stories on ALXnow discussed…the distinction between the City of Alexandria and the areas of Fairfax south of Cameron Run sometimes referred to as Alexandria. This past week, two businesses opening this month — a cannabis dispensary and a metal supermarket — identified themselves as ‘Alexandria’ branches of their respective chains despite the fact that both are opening in Fairfax.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 91 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:15 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A sewer project could affect an area near the Vienna Metro station along I-66 (via Fairfax County)

A sewer infrastructure project in the Vienna Metro station area is in the works, anticipating future needs in northern Fairfax County.

The Accotink Gravity Sewer Improvements Project will upgrade existing facilities that are projected to be insufficient, county staff say.

“In order to prepare the sewer system for the future needs, we really need to go forward with this project,” said Department of Public Works and Environmental Services project manager Thomas Grala during a virtual meeting for the public about the project on Tuesday (May 24).

According to a presentation, the county’s current total sewer capacity is approximately 90 million gallons per day, but by 2045, the area will need to accommodate a projected 120 million gallons per day, a 33% increase.

The Accotink Gravity project’s design phase could begin this summer and finish in the spring of 2023. The design phase will finalize the exact route of the sewer. Construction could begin in the fall of 2023 and end two years later.

Additional public meetings, including those with smaller groups such as homeowners’ associations and businesses, are expected in the future.

The existing Accotink gravity sewer starts by James Madison High School, passes through Nottoway Park, continues to Nutley Street, goes underneath I-66, and passes south under routes 29 and 50.

“It’s been working fine and many people walk along these routes…as pathways,” said Andrew Casolini, a project manager with Whitman, Requardt & Associates, a firm headquartered in Baltimore that the county selected to partner with on the work.

He noted during the public meeting that the system was initially installed in 1963 and upgraded in 1978.

The new project is estimated to cost approximately $37 million and would be covered by existing user fees and availability charges.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently agreed to raise sewer fees by about $38 on average starting July 1, and those annual rates are slated to continue increasing.

Meanwhile, the board is also considering switching an existing “growth-pays-for growth” policy, where developers’ costs would be shared by residents and other property owners.

Grala said the project is one of a series of upcoming efforts, such as a $110 million project in Tysons to create a new 5.5-mile-long pipeline for future growth that could be completed by the summer of 2026.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is examining whether developers should continue to bear new infrastructure costs or split the costs among current residents and other property owners.

Sewer fees will already increase starting July 1, when sewer service charges per 1,000 gallons will increase from $7.72 to $8.09.

A proposed sewer reimbursement policy would up that rate by 4.5 cents on average annually, among other increases, by charging current users to cover maintenance and improvements as the system expands with new development.

Even without the changes, the county’s sewer service rate is slated to reach $9.67 over the following four fiscal years to help fund the sewer infrastructure.

Multiple supervisors expressed support for the proposal during a land use policy committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday). Chairman Jeff McKay called it a creative solution.

Currently, if a developer wants to build, they must upgrade sewer infrastructure to accommodate the project if necessary, which is known as a “growth-pays-for-growth policy.” There’s an option to reclaim some of those costs if other development contributes.

Before the pandemic, developers paid anywhere between $16.3 million and $42.5 million annually to install sewer infrastructure, according to county estimates.

The matter comes as the county faces significant affordable housing needs, and developers seek to minimize costs to aid further growth.

The current system’s gradual reimbursements and lack of a guarantee for future reimbursement have seemed to be unattractive to developers, according to a Feb. 8 memo from county executive Bryan Hill.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity had raised concerns in October, saying that larger projects can spread out costs across multiple buildings or developments, but developer fees can be burdensome for smaller projects where the capacity would be breached.

Between 2016 and 2021, over 90% of developer-led projects didn’t have to upsize existing sewers, based on a county Public Works and Environmental Services estimate, because the current system had adequate capacity.

When sewer capacity is sufficient, developers don’t have to do anything further.

The county board could also change when developers get paid, potentially accelerating projects.

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Morning Notes

A Virginia Department of Transportation truck at the intersection of Route 1 and Popkins Lane in Groveton, where traffic signals were flashing (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Metro Leaders Step Down — Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader resigned, effective immediately, last night (Monday) after the transit agency pulled 72 operators for failing to recertify. Wiedefeld had been set to leave on June 30 but says he wanted to “provide a more timely transition to Interim General Manager Andy Off.” [WMATA]

Mosby Woods Residents Split Over Possible Street Renamings — “The increasingly diverse neighborhood named after Confederate army battalion commander John S. Mosby…is another battleground, with the [Fairfax] City Council set to decide in June whether nine streets in Mosby Woods should be called something else.” [The Washington Post]

Pipe Replacement to Disrupt Wolf Trap Area Traffic — “Lawyers Road (Route 673) just south of Carhill Road will have one lane of alternating traffic in each direction via flagging Tuesday, May 17 through Wednesday, May 18, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe…Through traffic will be detoured via Garrett Street, Trott Avenue, Vale Road, Hunter Mill Road and back to Lawyers” [VDOT]

Police Share Details on I-95 Crash — “The woman who died in last week’s fatal three-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in Springfield, Virginia, was identified Monday by Virginia State Police….Speed and driver distraction are being investigated as contributing factors in the crash.” [WTOP]

Herndon IT Company Bought for $4.2B — “Herndon information technology contractor ManTech International Corp. (NASDAQ: MANT) said Monday morning it has agreed to be acquired by D.C. private equity powerhouse The Carlyle Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CG) in an all-cash transaction valued at $4.2 billion.” [Washington Business Journal]

Decision Nears on Lake Accotink Dredging — Fairfax County will make a final decision “in just weeks” on how to address sediment build-up in Springfield’s Lake Accotink. The options currently on the table would transport the sediment to a nearby industrial park or pipe it to Wakefield Park, where it would then be taken to a quarry via I-495, raising environmental and traffic concerns. [ABC7]

Reston Association’s Pool Season Underway — “Our Pools season has officially started! Check out these scenes from opening weekend at North Shore and Lake Audubon! Thanks to all who came out! We’re ready to have an amazing summer at the Pools!” [RA/Twitter]

Bear Sightings Might Become More Common — “Due to warmer weather, bears are beginning to move throughout the county. Be safe by securing your trash cans and bird feeders, reducing the likelihood of on of our hairy friends popping up in your community.” [Pat Herrity/Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 73 and low of 58. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The proposed routes for new sewer pipelines in Tysons West (via DPWES)

Tysons is going to need a bigger sewer system.

With the population expected to continue growing over the next few decades, Fairfax County is starting to prepare now for the anticipated influx of residents — and the additional wastewater they will inevitably produce.

Over the past two years, the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has been planning upgrades to the sewer pipelines and pump station that serve the Tysons West neighborhood along Route 7 between Westpark Drive and the Dulles Toll Road.

One of several projects in the works to boost northern Fairfax County’s wastewater capacity, the Tysons Wastewater System Enhancements will replace and relocate an existing pump station, while adding more than 7 miles of new sewer pipeline.

“This project will decrease the risk of wastewater overflows and back-ups during periods of high wastewater flows by diverting flow from existing infrastructure,” DPWES said on the project page.

The department will host a virtual public meeting to discuss its proposal at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to DPWES spokesperson Sharon North, the Tysons area doesn’t currently have any issues with wastewater overflows or backups, but with the Tysons Comprehensive Plan targeting 100,000 residents by 2050, the current facilities aren’t sufficient to handle that future growth.

DPWES conducted a study that determined wastewater from the northern part of the county should be rerouted to the Noman Cole Pollution Control Plant in Lorton. Read More

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