City of Alexandria, VA
According to EPA’s 2004 National Water Quality Inventory (NWQI), which summarizes water quality assessments under Section 305(b) of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), 44% of assessed stream miles, 64% of assessed lake acres, and 30% of bay and estuarine square miles suffered from water quality impairments and did not support designated uses. These impaired waters from NWQI and 305(b) report are placed on a list according to Section 303(d) of the CWA and scheduled for total maximum daily load (TMDL) development. In Alexandria, Four Mile Run, Hunting Creek/Cameron Run, and Holmes Run are considered impaired by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. A leading source of this impairment is polluted stormwater.
Where does the pollution come from? It comes from different activities that are part of our daily routine. Almost every street, lawn, driveway, rooftop, and parking lot in Alexandria is connected to a storm drain. When it rains, the stormwater mixes with spilled motor oil, pet waste, pesticides, paint, grease, and litter. This polluted stormwater is discharged directly to our local streams, which eventually flow to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The City has long been proactive in its efforts to control stormwater pollution. During the development of Alexandria's Stormwater Management Plan, the City engaged in an extensive assessment of existing stormwater management options, ordinances, and programming and evaluated them against National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) compliance requirements. While the NPDES mandate will require some new stormwater pollution prevention initiatives, many of the City's current pollution control activities serve as the foundation.
On January 13, 2001, the City Council adopted the Water Quality Management Supplement to the Master Plan, thus, fulfilling the phase II requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Program and completing a process that began in late 1996. The Northern Virginia Region Commission (NVRC) in close collaboration with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services prepared the document. On March 19, 2001, the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board “determined that the amendments made to the City of Alexandria’s Comprehensive Plan have made its Phase II program consistent” with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.
This document emphasizes Alexandria’s water and habitat resources; it focuses on water quality impacts and directs the City, through specific initiatives, to preserve our existing resources and reclaim and better manage our watersheds. As proof of the City’s commitment, the City Council has earmarked money for FY 2002, continuing through FY 2006, for environmental restoration.
Alexandria has been pro-active in controlling pollution in stormwater runoff (classified as "nonpoint source pollution"by the Federal EPA) for many years. Our Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance actually predates the Virginia law and regulations.
Article XIII of the City Zoning Ordinance contains the provisions of both the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and the Virginia Stormwater Management Act, making our developer best management practices (BMP)* program one of the most rigorous ones in the state. Over 1,000 acres of the City have been placed under developer-constructed BMP control since the ordinance was passed in 1992. In addition, the City staff has worked with developers to route the runoff of over 1,000 acres of previously developed properties through regional retrofit BMPs under our "Targets of Opportunity" program. Our staff estimates that these facilities are probably meeting the "Urban Retrofit" pollution reductions targets for the entire Virginia Shenandoah-Potomac Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The over 2,000 acres of BMP coverage (including approximately 1,150 acres of impervious surfaces) under these two programs is more than 20 percent of the total land area within the City. The staff has not been able to find another locality in the U.S. with this level of stormwater quality control.
Alexandria has also taken the lead in Northern Virginia in the development and employment of BMPs, which meet the needs of the "Ultra-Urban Environment" (a term that was coined by our staff in 1991). For several years, our Alexandria Supplement to the Northern Virginia BMP Handbook was the only reference available on treating stormwater pollution in heavily built-up areas, and we have sold hundreds of copies to jurisdictions all over the U.S. and as far distant as Australia and New Zealand. Of the approximately 500 BMPs installed within the City, most are either intermittent sand filters or bioretention filters. Our staff was pleased to write the design criteria for these facilities, which will be contained in the new Virginia Stormwater Management Manual.
Working with information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, our staff has also published a Best Management Practices Manual for Automotive Related Industries. Compliance with the manual is required of all such businesses that require a Special Use Permit (SUP) by placing appropriate conditions on their SUPs.
The Alexandria Sanitation Authority (ASA) has also taken a proactive position in the reduction of nutrients reaching the Potomac from point sources. ASA is currently under construction on a five-year rehabilitation of their wastewater treatment plant that will incorporate state-of-the-art biological nutrient removal (BNR) of nitrogen compounds, elevating the entire plant to the upper limits of current technology.
In summary, Alexandria and ASA have gone well "beyond compliance" with their programs to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in or adjacent to the City. The Federal/Multi-State Chesapeake Bay Program recognized the City's efforts by the award of a 1997 Community Innovation Award for the "Targets of Opportunity" Program.
Questions on Alexandria's stormwater quality program may be addressed to the City's Watershed Program Administrator, at 703-746-4065.
* A term used to describe measures to prevent or remove pollution from stormwater runoff. Facilities to remove pollution from runoff, such as wet ponds, detention facilities, infiltration facilities, sand filters, and "bioretention facilities" are known as "structural BMPs."
Stormwater near your home or business does not have to be an environmental hazard. The best way to help keep our streams, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay clean is to not let water get polluted in the first place. Pollution prevention is critical to the improvement of water quality in our streams. Simple changes to our daily activities at home and at work will help improve the water quality for future generations.
Your involvement is the key to a successful water quality management program. There are many ways citizens can get involved
Top 10 things you can do to protect local streams and rivers:
Pass the pollution prevention message along and let others know how they can make a difference. HELP KEEP ALEXANDRIA BEAUTIFUL!
Around Your Home or Business
Around Your Yard
Pet waste is a significant source of fecal bacteria in Alexandria. When pet waste is not properly disposed of, it can wash into nearby streams or be carried by runoff into storm drains. These storm drains do not connect to treatment facilities. Instead, they drain directly into our streams and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.
The nutrients and organic matter in pet waste can also cause significant water quality degradation. Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms that block sunlight and kill underwater vegetation. Decaying pet waste uses up dissolved oxygen in the water that fish and other aquatic species rely on to live.
Simple Ways to Love Your Pet and the Environment!
The City has several managed dog exercise areas. Please contact the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities at 703.838.4943 or see Dog Parks in Alexandria.
If we each do a little, it can add up to a lot. For more information, contact OEQ at 703-746-4065.
There are two types of storm sewer systems in the City of Alexandria – a combined sewer system, and a separate sewer system. Separate sewer systems consist of two pipes. One pipe conveys stormwater runoff from storm drains to local waterways with little or no treatment to remove pollutants. The other pipe conveys sanitary sewage to a local wastewater treatment plant. Combined sewer systems (CSS) have only one pipe which conveys both sewage / greywater and stormwater to a local wastewater treatment plant.
When the City of Alexandria was originally developed, the use of CSS was a common practice. In older parts of the City, combined sewers carry both sewage and stormwater runoff to advanced wastewater treatment plant (AWWTP) operated by Alexandria Renew Enterprises (formerly the Alexandria Sanitation Authority or ASA). During heavy rains, overflows can occur from these combined sewers which results in stormwater runoff and sewage / greywater being discharged into the Potomac via local streams. The City has an ongoing monitoring program to confirm that the overflows do not result in violation of water quality standards.
Over time and through the passage of the Clean Water Act and other regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the City of Alexandria began to use both separate and combined sewer systems. Eliminating the impacts of combined sewer overflows of the existing CSS is a priority for the City of Alexandria today.
The two types of sewer systems are illustrated below.
The map below shows where remaining CSS are located in the City of Alexandria.
What is Erosion?
What is Erosion and Sediment Control?
The basis of the City's efforts to control runoff from construction sites is the City's Erosion & Sediment Control Program and the City's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act compliance program. Each program is designed to meet State mandates for erosion and sediment control and water quality protection. These programs require that any construction project that disturbs at least 2,500 square feet have a City approved construction pollution prevention plan and install appropriate construction site runoff controls to meet the goal of reduced pollutant discharge to the City's streams.
Due to their earth-disturbing operations, construction sites can contribute more sediment to streams than can be deposited naturally during several decades. The resulting sedimentation and the contribution of other pollutants from construction sites can harm the City's streams, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Construction site runoff control is key to preventing sediment from earth-disturbing operations, as well as construction debris, from contaminating the City's streams.
Controlling sediment and debris at construction sites has many benefits in addition to avoiding environmental degradation. These benefits include reducing mud in the street, loose litter, and reduction of sediment and debris in storm sewers.
Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Stormwater Program Plan
MS4 Annual Report for 2010-2011
Alexandria MS4 Annual Report Main Body
Public Education and Outreach
The City has put together several brochures designed to educate the public on the various ways they can help reduce the impact of pollutants to local streams and waterways.
Scrolling text messages aired on the City's government access channel (Comcast Cable channel 70) provide the public with useful tips and key actions that will help reduce the impact of pollutants and protect local waterways.
Signs have been placed throughout the City along roadways at major stream crossings to inform the public on the names of local streams and their associated watershed. Additional signs placed in public parks adjacent to City streams encourage "no dumping" of litter and debris. The City also hopes to bring attention to the Spanish speaking community on the importance of our local streams and how they can be protected. Bilingual "No Dumping" signs have been placed in various areas of the City to educate both the English and Spanish speaking public that it is not acceptable to dump litter, debris, or wastes into the local streams.
A similar bilingual message is included on markers placed on inlets and storm drains throughout the City to prevent the dumping of trash, oil, dog waste, etc into the drain.
Public Involvement and Participation
Your involvement is the key to a successful stormwater management program. There are many ways citizens can get involved:
If you have questions or comments, please contact the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) at 703-746-4065.
Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
Non-stormwater discharges to the storm sewer system occur most often through illegal connections to the storm sewer system or through illegal dumping activities. Because of these discharges, contaminated stormwater enters into storm drains or directly into local waters before receiving treatment from a wastewater treatment plant. Illicit connections may be intentional or may be unknown to the business owner, as is often the case with floor drain connections.
The City of Alexandria has mappied all waterways and stormwater outfalls. This program identified discharge points to help eliminate illegal connections to the system and discharges to our local streams. If you have any concerns about illicit discharge, suspect a problem, or notice something suspicious such as stormwater that is highly discolored, cloudy, and/or has a strong smell, please contact OEQ at 703-746-4065.
Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
Controlling sediment and debris at construction sites is crucial to protecting the environment, mitigating flooding by keeping this material out of our streams and storm drain system and ensuring safer vehicular travel by keeping mud out of the streets. This practice also reduces citizen complaints about mud in the street and loose litter.
The City's efforts to control stormwater runoff from construction sites are derived from the State's Erosion & Sediment Control Program and Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. Local compliance of these two programs requires any construction project that disturbs at least 2,500 square feet must have an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan. Additionally, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) requires the project to have a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) related to the General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities. Once the SWPP is prepared, a registration statement for coverage under the VSMP Construction General Permit must be submitted to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Currently the City seeks to ensure that the project has coverage under a VSMP Permit, but DCR administers the VSMP permit.
For more information about controlling construction site run-off click on the following links:
For more information on Erosion and Sediment Control, contact the Construction and Inspection Division at 703-746-4035 . For information on the City's Chesapeake Bay Preservation program, contact OEQ at 703-746-4065.
Post-Construction Stormwater Management Regulations
Stormwater management regulations are designed to reduce pollution from development. As runoff flows over areas altered by development, it picks up harmful sediment and chemicals such as oil and grease, pesticides, heavy metals, and nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus). These pollutants often become suspended in runoff and are carried to streams. In addition, areas undergoing development or redevelopment often result in increased impervious surfaces. Impervious surfaces, such as roofs, parking lots, and roads, increase the quantity of runoff generated by preventing water from filtering through vegetation and soil. This can result in stream bank erosion and downstream flooding, which often lead to a loss of aquatic life and damage to property.
The City has long required that development and redevelopment projects implement stormwater facility Best Management Practices (BMPs) to minimize the increase of pollutants and runoff to the City's streams. Examples of BMPs and stormwater controls include stormwater wet/dry detention ponds, vegetative buffers, bioretention areas, hydrodynamic structures, sand filters, cluster development to retain open space, and design standards that promote stream buffers and reduce impervious surfaces. The City also encourages a "tool box" approach to stormwater quality when site conditions and circumstances permit. This approach includes stream restoration, vegetated buffer enhancement, and constructing green roofs.
Ongoing maintenance of BMPs is required to esnure that they continue to function as designed. Detention ponds lose capacity as sediment and pollutants are captured and accumulate in the pond. Sand filters can clog with sediment, oil, and organic matter such as leaves and lawn clippings. Bioretention areas can loose their capacity to infiltrate stormwater. After the development is complete, the responsibility for maintenance is passed on to the occupants of the development through the BMP Maintenance agreement. Frequently, the occupants, be it a business or homeowners association, are unaware of their obligation to provide maintenance and/or unaware of the proper procedures to inspect and maintain BMPs. The City can assist in helping BMP owners / operators understand their maintenance obligations and can provide technical guidance for inspecting and maintaining BMPs.
For more information, contact OEQ at 703-746-4065.
Pollution Prevention for Municipal Activities
For more information, contact OEQ at 703-746-4065.