Category: Environment

County Board Dismisses Safety Concerns of 5G

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 7/16/19

Here are some concerns raised by civic activist Suzanne Sundburg on deployment of 5G on Small Wireless Facilities (SWF), which Arlington County Board approved on July 16.

“Whereas the county’s background resources and permit information are interesting, they don’t begin to address the public safety aspect. The FCC’s radiation limits have not been updated since 1996. These limits and most prior research are based on the thermal effects of radiation, which isn’t necessarily applicable to nonionizing radiation like millimeter-wave and submillimeter-wave radiation. Simply because millimeter wave radiation cannot displace electrons from atoms or molecules does not make people’s exposure to it safe.

“An understanding of the risks of physical harm resulting from millimeter wave radiation is just beginning to emerge. These 5G antenna arrays will utilize millimeter waves in roughly the 30 to 100 gigahertz frequency range. Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, which pose greater risks to human health. Scientists readily acknowledged that there is too little research on the 5G millimeter wave radiation and antennas to assure the public’s safety and are only just now starting to study the effects of it. To date, the results don’t look good.

“Unfortunately, we cannot rely on federal agencies to protect the public. The FCC, in particular, is essentially captive to the telecommunications industry.

“In fact in February 2019, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal took the FCC and FDA to task for expediting the 5G network’s rollout without having any research to document its safety.

“Likewise, the State of Virginia appears to have punted, providing no additional safety measures/standards or monitoring assistance.

“The telecommunications industry itself has consistently attempted to downplay the radiation health risks of existing technology — risks that are documented by legitimate scientific research.

“Given that:

  • these millimeter-wave 5G arrays will emit radiation 24×7;
  • there is no way for us to protect ourselves from it, and
  • vulnerable populations will be at higher risk

“I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to ask the County how it intends to mitigate that risk. How does it intend to monitor the radiation being emitted in this uncontrolled scientific experiment using us as unwitting human test subjects.”

Dawn Redwood Report Greenwashes Development in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 6/15/19

Last week Arlington County issued a long awaited report on how it approved the demolition of a 75 year old Dawn Redwood to make way for the redevelopment of a property on North Ohio Street located in a Resource Protection Area (RPA) in North Arlington.

The County’s Chesapeake Bay Ordinance expressly prohibits redevelopments that increase the amount of runoff inducing impervious surface in RPAs. The report claims that “there was no increase in impervious cover.” So the redevelopment was “allowable”.

Anyone familiar with the North Ohio Street site knows that the McMansion built on it dwarfs the original home that was demolished along with the Dawn Redwood in 2018. How could this oversized structure NOT generate more runoff?

Maps contained in the report, show that the developer, Richmond Homes, subdivided the lot, placing the old property on a parcel inside the RPA perimeter and the new property on an adjacent parcel just outside the RPA. He then demolished the old home along with the redwood, eliminating all impervious surface on that parcel. By this sleight of hand, the new oversized home actually occupies less of the RPA buffer than the original.

A neat trick, one that not only enriches Richmond Homes, but also establishes a precedent for demolishing homes and trees on properties throughout the County that were previously off limits to redevelopment.

If you live adjacent to an RPA and want to make a killing on the sale of your home, rest assured. The County is open for business. If you are the neighbor of such a homeowner, you might also want to sell when the additional runoff impacts your property. As for the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance itself? Well that’s a dead letter.

Boathouse Facility Will Add More Congestion To Rosslyn

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 5/21/2019

I came down with Potomac Fever when I acquired a brand new Folbot folding kayak in 1997, and I’ve been paddling on the Potomac ever since. While there is no cure for Potomac Fever, paddling alleviates the symptoms. So I was enthusiastic about National Park Service (NPS) plans to construct a boathouse in Arlington.

Nevertheless I’m concerned about the health of the Potomac, specifically the impact of dredging the channel between the proposed dock and Teddy Roosevelt Island and traffic congestion in the nearby. The Gravelly Point alternative has neither of these impacts. Yet NPS rejected it because of occasional strong river currents and lack of access to public transportation at that location.

An experienced rower recently advised me that the Rosslyn location is unsuitable for rowing teams, because the channel between the Rosslyn site and Teddy Roosevelt Island is too narrow to maneuver large boats. Also, while river currents are a factor for small craft at Gravelly Point, they have little impact on large sculls. Likewise since high school rowing teams would be transported to Gravelly Point by bus, the lack of immediate access to transit is immaterial, and ample parking already exists for anyone who drives.

The Rosslyn alternative will put an ancillary administrative facility on a wooded area at the intersection of Lee Highway and Lynn Street near Key Bridge. This facility, the need for which has never been demonstrated, will exacerbate both congestion and runoff in a resource protection area and turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour.

Today’s vote to approve an agreement with NPS to construct the Rosslyn facility is strictly pro forma. The train has left the station, but only because Department of Parks and Recreation never saw a park it didn’t want to pave over, and County Board never saw a boondoggle it didn’t want to buy. Nevertheless I think that those who live and work in Rosslyn should know that there was a reasonable alternative to more traffic congestion at Key Bridge and further degradation of the Potomac River.

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Talks the Talk

In a recent article, ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot castigated County Board for failing to address local flooding, even though it denounced Donald Trump for failing to deal with climate change. Rousselot said:

“Arlington talks the talk about global climate change, but fails to walk the walk locally.”

Peter Rousselot, ARLnow.com

Rousselot called on County government to “[s]low the dramatic increase in impervious surfaces” that causes flooding in low lying areas.

Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen. Just last week County Board rubber stamped two major planning documents–the Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) and the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan. Both of these documents call for widening bike trails in the Four Mile Run Valley to handle increasing bike traffic.

At an April 23 public hearing on the Bicycle Element, County Board ignored calls to remove projects to widen the W&OD and Mount Vernon trails, even though the result will be more flood inducing runoff.

County Ends Curbside Glass Recycling

Recycling is another issue that demonstrates the County’s commitment to lip service only on environmental issues. On April 25 the Board voted to authorize the County Manager to terminate curbside glass recycling as a cost cutting measure.

From now on residential glass waste will be trucked with other trash to Alexandria’s waste to energy (WTE) facility to be burned. The County Manager provided no information on the cost savings of burning glass versus recycling it, and the Board didn’t ask.

I Walk the Walk

Are you tired of the doublespeak you get from County Board on everything from recycling to runoff? Then you should consider an independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will lobby against paving over the County’s remaining natural areas and for alternatives to ending curbside recycling.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Seek other tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Public Spaces Master Plan Calls for Widening Bike Trails

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 4/25/19

The same environmental considerations that govern the Bicycle Element should guide the Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) especially for those areas that are located in Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) governed by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA). This includes the entire linear regional park along Four Mile Run and all of the local parks that abut it.

Dr. Bernard Berne has forwarded to you amendments to the draft PSMP to remove language to widen trails located in urban parks, on the grounds that:

“Wide paved trails within natural areas and Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) add impermeable surfaces that disturb natural areas, harm nearby trees, reduce the size of adjacent meadows and other natural features, and increase stormwater runoff.  Further, wide trails detract from the experiences that people visiting the areas for reasons other than transportation wish to enjoy.”

Dr. Bernard Berne

Dr. Berne cites the 2012 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, which recommends designing trails for lower speeds in urban parks (p. 5-12).

He also recommends removing Section 2.3.4 (p. 90): as inconsistent with preservation of natural areas stipulated in Section 3.2 (p. 98):

2.3.4 Explore ways to safely separate modes, where space allows, on high traffic trail routes and where user conflicts commonly occur, while minimizing impact on natural resources and trees.

Separating bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the most heavily used routes will enhance the safety of all users.

And adding a second sentence to Section 6.1.4 (p. 128):

Mowed buffers adjacent to paved trails in natural areas should not exceed three feet in width, except where environmental conditions prevent this.

As authority, Dr. Berne cites the AASHTO Guide (p. 5-5), which recommends that:

. . . a graded shoulder area at least 3 to 5 ft (0.9 to 1.5 m) wide with a maximum cross-slope of 1V:6H, which should be recoverable in all weather conditions, should be maintained on each side of the pathway.

Finally Dr. Berne recommends an appendix that contains all existing County maintenance standards for parks and trails, so that the public can determine if the County is adhering to them.

No More Curbside Glass Recycling

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 4/25/19.

I oppose the County Manager’s recommendation to amend Chapter 10 of the County Code to enable it to ship residential waste glass to the waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator in Alexandria on both economic and environmental grounds.

The County argues that it is compelled to stop recycling glass, because the cost of disposal has gone from $4.66 per ton to $16.31 per ton.

Yet according to civic activist Suzanne Sundburg, who cites the County’s own recycling website, that cost is dwarfed by the $43.16 per ton fee the County pays to haul its trash to the WTE facility in Alexandria.

So the move makes no economic sense. It also makes no environmental sense, since glass, which doesn’t burn, must ultimately be trucked to a landfill.

The move away from recycling glass isn’t necessary. Alexandria has established 4 waste-glass drop-off centers; this material will be sent from the drop-off centers to a Fairfax County processing facility to be recycled into gravel and sand that can be used locally.

If Alexandria, which co-owns the WTE plant, can find a way to recycle waste glass without inconveniencing its residents, Arlington can too.

Arlington Civic Association Says VDOT Responsible for Erosion of W&OD Trail

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 2/26/19

I am speaking in my capacity as a director of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), not as a member of the Transportation Commission.

I support VDOT’s request for temporary and permanent easements along the W&OD and Custis Trails to implement needed trail improvements between East Falls Church Metro and Ballston.

I pulled this item from the consent agenda because it does not include a plan to address the root cause of flooding of Four Mile Run in the immediate vicinity of the work VDOT has outlined.

You should have received a recent letter from the Madison Manor Civic Association (MMCA) thanking you for undertaking to shore up erosion along the W&OD trail in the vicinity of the Patrick Henry overpass.

However, MMCA is concerned that unless the cause of the erosion is addressed, it will recur. Members of the civic association have identified the problem as clogged intakes to a storm water diversion bypass tunnel about one third mile upstream.

It is irresponsible for the County to ignore this situation, of which it is surely aware. County Board itself in approving the I-66 widening project on 1/28/17 in agenda item 37.C.e stipulated to VDOT that:

any new stormwater management facilities proposed with this project be adequately maintained, specifically that erosion and sediment controls should be outlined and contain information on inspection and enforcement actions.

County Board should direct staff to contact VDOT and stipulate the repair and upgrade or replacement of the existing intakes as part of the I-66 eastbound widening project, which authorizes such improvements as long as they are within the scope of the project.

Insofar as the bypass tunnel runs directly under the I-66 ROW before emptying into Four Mile Run, it is definitely within the eastbound widening project’s scope of work. Thus it is well within the authority of Arlington County Board to make this request.

Tree Canopy Estimate Questioned

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting On June 16, 2018.

At the April 21, 2018 County Board meeting, civic activist Suzanne Sundburg blasted the County for misrepresenting the health of Arlington’s tree canopy. She said:

“Arlington’s claim of a 1 percent tree canopy increase between 2011 and 2017 is not statistically valid”—due to the wide 6 percent margin of error in the reported statistic.

Christian Dorsey dismissed Sundburg’s criticism of the County’s 2017 tree canopy study that reported this number. He said: “Getting into a misunderstanding about data points of a percentage point or two are not really useful for our public policy.”

Yet the District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) is embroiled in a controversy right now with Forest Service (USFS) researchers over a similar difference in reported statistics. (more…)

EPA Plan to Relax Coal Ash Regulation Affects Potomac River

Comments At EPA Coal Ash Hearing on April 24, 2018.

I stand in opposition to proposed amendments to EPA’s coal ash regulation not as an expert but as a citizen and an avid kayaker. I’ve been kayaking on the Potomac since 1997, and I’m concerned about the hazardous impact on water quality, wildlife, and water sports of dumping contaminated coal ash into the Potomac River from the site of a retired coal fired plant at Possum Point on Quantico Creek south of Alexandria.

According to Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks, Dominion Resources has been dumping contaminated coal ash from ponds at Possum Point into the Potomac via Quantico Creek since at least May, 2015. In January, 2016 instead of banning this practice, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a wastewater discharge permit authorizing more Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) dumping over the objections of citizens of Prince William County and their state senator Scott Surovell. (more…)

Stop Paving Over Parkland

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on December 16, 2017.

While I generally support the Framework Plan for Benjamin Banneker Park, I oppose the widening of the multi-use trails from 8 feet to 12 feet with a ten foot minimum.

First, most of the park lies within a resource protection area (RPA) defined by the watershed created by Four Mile Run. Four Mile Run Trail runs close to the stream throughout the park—as close as three feet from the stream bank in some areas. (more…)