Herndon car wash discharged green liquid into Sugarland Run, violating permit, state says

(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Herndon car wash that discharged green liquid that ended up in Sugarland Run Stream received a formal notice of violation on Friday (May 28) from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, a regional official says.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon at 632 Grant Street does have a permit to discharge, according to both a car wash representative and DEQ.

However, the green liquid was being discharged into a storm sewer that goes into Sugarland Run due to a malfunctioning of the car wash’s water reclamation system malfunctioning, says DEQ official Mark Miller, who manages regional enforcement and pollution response for Virginia’s northern region.

Miller says the presence of the discharge in Sugarland Run has been observed multiple times by both DEQ officials and town staff members.

As a result, the business will be notified that it is in violation of its general DEQ permit. The discharge is believed to be a mix of water and car wash detergent, but it is not thought to be harmful to the stream.

“Staff from the town, Fairfax County DPWES, Fairfax County Fire Department, and the Virginia DEQ all performed independent tests on the discharge and did not find any contaminants in the stream that are known to be harmful to the environment,” Town of Herndon spokesperson Anne Curtis told Reston Now by email.

Curtis says DEQ is now in charge of the investigation and is “in contact with the property owner to resolve the illicit discharge.”

This issue was first brought to the public’s attention during a Herndon Town Council work session on May 18. In the work session, Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted that town staff were aware of the situation and had recently observed the discharge themselves.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon managing member Guy Paolozzi told Reston Now that the business is currently conducting its own investigation to determine why the discharge is green.

Until both the car wash and DEQ complete their investigations, Paolozzi says, the car wash will stop discharging.

Flagship Carwash Center currently has five Virginia locations and 10 locations across the region.

Miller says the notice of violation was drafted and sent out last week. The intent of the notice is to get the problem fixed under a timeline. These types of violations are not uncommon, and they can end with the business fixing the issue without any further consequence.

However, a civil charge (a fine) could be imposed depending on the findings of DEQ’s investigation.

A section of Sugarland Run south from where the discharge has been observed is about to undergo a restoration. The long-running project was first approved in August 2018.

Work includes replanting vegetation, placing in-stream structures, and installing brush mattresses.

Construction and restoration is expected to be completed in early 2022.

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