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Residents, RA Seek Action on SLHS Stormwater Runoff

by Karen Goff January 5, 2016 at 11:30 am 6 Comments

Wakerobin drainage

Reston Association and residents who live in neighborhoods across from South Lakes High School are increasing their efforts to bring awareness — and hopefully, action — about stormwater runoff eroding the land nearby.

Water from the school area runs under South Lakes Drive to a steep, downhill drainage ditch that runs between Cedar Cover Cluster and Wakerobin Lane into Lake Audubon. Fairfax County Public Schools officials say a planned 40,000-square-foot addition, as well as more than 100 additional parking spaces, will not add to the stormwater runoff.

Residents say they have dealt with soggy ground for years, and they expect the planned addition for the high school will only make the problem worse. Meanwhile, the school system applied for and received a waiver to meet updated runoff regulations, rather than new ones that went into effect last summer.

“Residents of Wakerobin and Cedar Cover Cluster have been plagued for more than two decades with the ever-growing ditch between our two developments,” Terry Maynard, a Wakerobin resident, told the RA Board in December.

Maynard pointed out that the now six-foot deep ditch has left water and sewer lines exposed. That led to a rupture in the sewer line there in July, which discharged approximately 100 gallons into Lake Audubon. Since then, the sewer line has been patched, and Fairfax County is examining how to permanently repair the line and manage the erosion.

“The resulting erosion has left sewer lines hanging out,” RA Environmental Advisory Committee Chair Sue Beffel told the RA Board at December’s meeting. “Our immediate concern is that the school addition will make erosion worse.”

South Lakes High School addition/Credit: FCPSA recent County Scoping Study also found that the drainage ditch should be a high priority for repair.

Reston Association concern about the issue is growing, and there will likely be more formal action taken at RA’s January meeting.

RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) said in a memorandum last month that “normally, stormwater discharge is permitted as a matter of right from a higher property to a lower subservient property, as long as it follows its natural course  and as long as it is not increased by actions of the owner of the higher property from which the stormwater originates. ”

But RA may have the right to see increased runoff into Lake Audubon as a trespass on its property, the EAC says.

“The increased amount of silting caused by the erosion of the Ditch may result in the need to dredge the Lake sooner than would otherwise be necessary and thereby cause increased expense to the RA,” the EAC memorandum states. “The lake wildlife could also suffer damage by virtue of the increased silting.”

The EAC recommends reviewing the issue with RA’s land use attorney for possible further action, as well as more investigation about runoff from SLHS. The EAC also says it would prefer to focus on stormwater management practices such as rain gardens and filtration trenches that could be tied to the school curriculum rather than focusing on the remediation of the problem created by the
generation of excess stormwater.

Meanwhile, RA President Ellen Graves has sent a letter to FCPS School Board Chair Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) outlining RA’s concerns.

“As a model school system in the Commonwealth, and perhaps the country, it is hard to believe that all County school additions and renovations do not strive to become the model of responsible and progressive best management practices, particularly with regards to environmental concerns,” Graves wrote of the SLHS possible impact on stormwater and the outdated rules it is following.

“Reston was founded on such innovative practices. Reston Association hopes FCPS would be a willing partner in achieving these same goals.”

Photos: Top, map of drainage area; bottom, SLHS addition/Courtesy Fairfax County

  • Terry Maynard

    We greatly appreciate the initiative RA’s EAC and the Board of Directors has taken in addressing the primary source of the problem: FCPS development of its high school and intermediate school property that funnels ever larger volumes of stormwater through a single culvert under South Lakes Drive into the drainage ditch behind homes on Wakerobin and Cabot Cove. We hope their efforts will lead to the prevention of additional flows–and maybe a reduction in existing flows–from FCPS property.

    We also appreciate Supervisor Hudgins’ initiative last fall in seeking to redress the extensive damage that has already been done in the ditch between the two neighborhoods. As reflected in the map pictured in this story, the DPWES has recently completed an assessment of the damage, which we’ve been told suggests the ditch is among the top third of County priorities for remediation–if the money is available. In a meeting with the two neighborhoods, DPWES explained the process that is required to actually achieve remediation, including budget reviews and approvals, conceptual plan development, detailed engineering plan development, and ultimately remedial work in the valley–something akin to what has been done on RA’s streams. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be soon, but we have started down the path.

    Here’s some of the damage we’re talking about: This first photo is of the exposed county sewer line and Comcast cables near the upper end of the ditch. The second shows the repaired county sewer line in the lower end of the ditch.

  • Wings!!

    I read a Storm Water Management Model published by the EPA that suggest that a Hooters somewhere in Reston would provide a long term to this problem.


  • Greg

    What irony that Graza is crying poverty at the school system but doesn’t seem to think that being an irresponsible environmental steward and seeking a waiver to meet current stormwater standards is of concern or teaches bad lessons.

  • freestylergbb

    No more runoff needed anywhere.

  • concordpoint

    County projects meet the new SWM requirements, even though they too qualified for grandfathering. FCPS, with an identified major erosion problem caused by its runoff, should correct their problem


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