Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Maynard-Hynes e-mail exchange re FCPS Failure to Meet Environmental Quality Standards in Proposed South Lakes High School Addition


From:  Hynes, Patricia (School Board Member)

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  • 10/18/15 at 7:02 PM
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    Mr. Maynard,

    I hope I didn't offend you by replying on Reston Now. I noticed that Karen Goff mentioned your email to me, so I thought it made sense to let her readers know I had responded and how. I think Reston Now can be a good forum for conversations like that. I won't publish this email - I don't think it will add much to what's already been said.

    I am sorry the school system can't do more. I wish we could exceed minimal requirements on all measures of environmental stewardship. Our new construction now meets very high energy conservation and sustainability standards, but we can't afford to retro-fit older buildings. FCPS was recently recognized for having more "Energy Star" certified buildings than any other school district in the country, but we have no plans currently to replace fossil fuel sources with alternatives because of high up-front costs. We use permeable parking surfaces where it helps to meet requirements, but we can't justify putting them everywhere, even though they're clearly preferable for the environment.

    Our hands are tied in these and many other ways by the inadequate capital funding the schools receive. Where we can, we work with the county. One area of collaboration is  stormwater management, for which there are designated county funds because we all pay an extra fee in our water bills.

    I don't know if this interests you, but I would love to show you what we CAN do. We have exciting environmental stewardship education programs in all of our schools. Terraset ES is a great example of what we can do when the educators in the building are encouraged to incorporate outdoor learning into new construction. Please let me know if you'd like a tour of Terraset, or any of the many other projects in Reston where our students are learning about stewardship by doing it.

    Pat

    Pat Hynes
    Fairfax County School Board
    Chair and Hunter Mill District Representative  
    From:  Terry Maynard   Today at 12:25 PM
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    Dear Chairman (and Hunter Mill School Board Representative) Pat Hynes,

    I have just read the staff report for the proposed 40,000SF addition to South Lakes High School across the street from our home and found that it explicitly states that FCPS does not intend to meet Virginia's environmental quality standards for stormwater remediation during the construction of the proposed addition. 
    Specifically, here is what the staff report says (p.14):
    Staff notes the applicant has received approval of a general permit through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which allows for the applicant’s proposal to be grandfathered under the old stormwater management requirements prior to the Board’s adoption of the new stormwater ordinance in 2014.
    So, in a Reston community that focuses on sustainability and environmental excellence, FCPS is proposing to meet old, much less stringent stormwater management requirements than is the current standard, presumably so it can save a few dollars.

    The proposed addition of some open joint parking surfaces (one of which is on the wrong side of the high school) and filterra structures is grossly inadequate to meet the additional flow caused by the addition, much less the current unacceptable stormwater management conditions.

    In and of itself, this position by FCPS is not worthy of a school system that claims to focus on excellence, but it is especially heinous when the School Board's disregard for stormwater management standards has been causing serious environmental consequences for two neighborhoods south of South Lakes Drive--Wakerobin and Cedar Cove--where SLHS has been dumping heavy stormwater flows for nearly four decades.  Moreover, those consequences have never figured into the school's building or several additions beyond the minimum required by law (or even lower standards in previous laws).  In fact, each new school addition has made the situation worse for these neighborhoods because of the inadequacy of the stormwater remediation effort and the  disregard of the impact of school construction on the surrounding area.  Even the FCPS/County effort to remediate flooding in the basin above South Lakes Drive this summer added to the stormwater problem by accelerating the pace of drainage from school property into the stream below.

    Most of the stormwater from both SLHS and Langston Hughes Intermediate School collects in a basin to the east of the high school and then flows through a stormwater tunnel under South Lakes Drive.  The resulting stream then plunges about 30' in its 1,000' flow to Lake Audubon.  During storms, the creek experiences massive erosion and the generation of huge quantities of silt that is spewed into Lake Audubon as the force of the flow cuts the stream wider and deeper.  The decades-long problem has exposed both the County sewer in several places as well as several residents' lateral connections.  In fact, this summer the force of the flow actually broke a County sewer line requiring emergency repairs and dumping raw sewage into Lake Audubon.  (Please see the two attached videos.  One shows the County sewer line that broke this summer during a major storm runoff caused by the failure of school stormwater remediation efforts.  The other shows the velocity of the flow coming out of the South Lakes Drive tunnel from FCPS property during the same timeframe.)

    Once its own sewer line broke, the County saw the problem caused by these stormwater flows.  Nonetheless, this problem was first brought to Supervisor Hudgins' attention in a creekside discussion with some Wakerobin residents in 2004--eleven years ago.  RA, Cedar Cove, and Wakerobin residents have all tried repeatedly to pursue County action in remediating the problem over the last decade to no avail--until the County sewer line broke.

    As a result, Supervisor Hudgins sponsored a meeting on the problem this passed Tuesday although no FCPS personnel attended.  As presented to the two neighborhoods by DPWES staff, it will take at least three years, probably more, for County action beginning now to actually result in a well-controlled stream runoff--if the project even gets approval by the Board of Supervisors.

    Both neighborhoods want faster action because of the potential for further envionmental damage from erosion, silting, or even another sewer leak into the lake.  Both neighborhoods believe (on a firm foundation) that the problem originates on FCPS property and efforts to remediate the creek problem will not succeed unless FCPS takes further action above.

    I believe now is the time for the School Board to step up and be an environmentally aware good neighbor and (a) fulfill its obligation to meet contemporary stormwater management standards at the minimum and (b) contribute (if not lead) the effort to remediate the serious stormwater problem the two neighborhoods are facing on both sides of South Lakes Drive because of FCPS' failure to take needed action.

    As our representative to the School Board and advocate for the addition to South Lakes High School,  I specifically look to you to lead that effort to become a better school and a better neighbor.

    Thank you for your favorable consideration of this serious environmental situation.

    Sincerely,
    Terry Maynard
    2217 Wakerobin Ln
    Reston, VA 20191
    703-476-5376

    BCC:  Wakerobin and Cedar Cove neighbors

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