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Page updated Apr 24, 2012 4:42 PM

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News & Events


On May 1, 2012, the City of Alexandria and other municipalities will kick off their “Air Quality Action Days” program to increase awareness about the dangers of ground-level ozone, or smog and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays; however, it is considered a harmful air pollutant when present at ground level. Ground-level ozone is formed when pollution reacts with sunlight. PM2.5 are tiny drops of liquid or small particles of dust, metals and other materials that remain suspended in the air. Some particles are emitted directly, while others are formed in the atmosphere when pollutants react.


Index Values



0 - 50



51 - 100



101 - 150

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups


151 - 200



201 - 300

Very Unhealthy


Prolonged exposure to ozone and PM2.5 can cause inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract, lower resistance to colds and pneumonia, damage lung tissue and intensify heart and lung disease. The most susceptible are children, seniors, and individuals with respiratory ailments; however individuals of any age can be affected.

From May through September, air quality is forecasted for the following day on a region wide basis and is coded as purple, red, orange, yellow or green--purple and red being most unhealthy. Watch for “Air Quality Action Days” notifications on local TV news stations, weather forecasts, or search the DEQ website to view the air quality forecast. You may also visit the site to obtain real time ozone levels, courtesy of the City’s Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station.

Although helpful every day, when a Code Red day is forecasted, take the following voluntary actions to improve the region’s and Alexandria’s air quality.

  •  Instead of driving, walk, bike, or use mass transit
  • Avoid mowing lawns with gas-powered mowers
  • Put off any painting until later
  • Don’t use aerosol products
  • Refuel cars after 7:00 pm and do not idle unnecessarily
  • Spread the WORD                

The City is hopeful that you will join us in the effort to reduce the amount of pollutants entering our environment by DOING YOUR SHARE FOR CLEAN AIR! Please feel free to contact Erica Bannerman with the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) at 703-746-4067 if you have questions about the Air Quality Action Days program.

City of Alexandria Stream Cleanup Held as Part of the 22nd Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup










Photo by malik m.l. williams

On Saturday, April 10th from 9:00am to noon, the City hosted a cleanup at Four Mile Run Park as part of the larger 22nd Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup created by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.  Eighty-two eager and enthusiastic volunteers of all ages, representing communities across the City, joined over 10,000 volunteers from across the region to remove over 250 tons of trash from the watershed and be part of the cleanup effort to do something good for the community and for the environment.  The City hosted three locations along Four Mile Run.  A number of people who frequent the park and associated walking/biking trail were on hand to witness the transformation.  We really appreciate the opportunity to work together with the City's citizens and appreciate your time and effort in making this event a success.  Sign up for Environmental eNews to get updates on the latest volunteer opportunities and other projects related to the Eco-City Alexandria initiatives.


Items Collected

The following items were collected:
157 bags of trash
Estimated 777 Plastic Bags (over 40,000 removed from the Potomac River watershed)
Estimated 650 cigarette butts and cigar plastic tips (over 27,000 removed from the Potomac River watershed)

Interesting Items: 
Lawn mower,
VHS tapes
Bike parts
Shopping cart

Volunteers were enthusiastic in their participation and all expressed a sense of accomplishment about the trash we were able to remove.  The City appreciates the involvement of citizens in this type of effort.  But the best way to prevent the impact on trash on the environment is to properly dispose of non-recyclable materials and to recycle the other materials using the City’s Recycling Program.



Photo by malik m.l. williams

Why is Trash a Problem?

Trash is a serious problem in the Potomac River Watersheds, and its major tributaries. There is currently limited research or regional data that tracks the sources of regional trash. The majority of this trash probably originates as refuse improperly or intentionally disposed of along roadsides, in parking lots or in public and private open spaces. Trash travels from these areas into storm drains and waterways. Trash negatively impacts community aesthetic and wellbeing, and interferes with public use and enjoyment of river and streamside parks. Trash can have significant negative chemical and biological impacts including: leaking and/or leaching of toxics from certain types of disposed items such as used oil quart containers, oil filters and car batteries; interference with the establishment of emergent aquatic plants; and floating trash hazards to wildlife through ingestion of or entanglement in floating debris.

Only Rain"Only Rain Down the Storm Drain!" 
Help Prevent Water Pollution

Did you know that the water that goes down the storm drain on your street flows right into your local streams? Polluted rainwater is the nation's number one water quality problem, and the City of Alexandria is hoping that you can help do something about it! Alexandria is joining other Northern Virginia localities in a water pollution prevention campaign to educate residents about how common household waste and chemicals can contaminate local streams. The campaign will feature an “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain” message and is running on several radio stations this spring.

Nonpoint source pollution, often called stormwater runoff pollution, comes from many sources, including parking lots, lawns, driveways, golf courses, and roads. Rainwater that runs off these surfaces picks up contaminants like motor oil, fertilizer, pesticides, and bacteria from pet waste. This stormwater runoff flows into storm drains and then into local streams and the Potomac River, the sources of drinking water for many residents in the Washington, D. C. metro area. This runoff also contributes to the pollution affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

So what can you do to prevent water pollution? Follow these simple tips:

  • Dispose of used motor oil and household hazardous waste (paint, batteries, household cleaners, etc.) properly through the city’s S.T.O.P. (Stop Throwing Out Pollutants) program, rather than pouring it on the driveway or into the storm drain.
  • Avoid excess fertilizer or pesticide use, especially before rain is predicted.
  • Wash your car at a commercial carwash, or in a location where the soapy water will not run into the storm drain.
  • Sweep up dirt, grass clippings, other yard waste instead of washing them down the driveway and into the gutter.
  • Always pick up pet waste from your yard, sidewalk, or park area.

The campaign partners include Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Fairfax City, the City of Falls Church, the town of Herndon, and the town of Vienna.

For more information about preventing stormwater pollution, please call the City of Alexandria Office of Environmental Quality at 703-746-4065 or visit Environmental Quality web site.

The Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners launches new website!!!
As part of the updated campaign to spread the word about steps we all can take to prevent pollution, the Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners launches the new Only Rain Down the Storm Drain website. Area governments and drinking water utilities formed the Partners through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to create a coordinated public education message about steps that can be taken to prevent water pollution.  The vast majority of the storm drains in Alexandria are directly connected to the areas local waterways. The campaign stresses the message that whatever goes down the storm drain can harm our local waterways and eventually end up in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.  So it is important to keep pollutants out of our storm drains so they don't pollute our surface and drinking water sources.  It's up to all of us!!