Lake Audubon in Reston (via Reston Association/Facebook)

Reston Association is monitoring a blue-green algae bloom that has emerged at Lake Audubon.

RA announced yesterday (Tuesday) that its watershed staff have found that the bloom contains the algal toxin microcystin, but tests of the water suggest the current levels of the toxin are low enough that no restrictions on recreation at the lake are necessary.

“However, environmental conditions such as increased heat or nutrients can affect levels and caution is advised,” RA said in the notice. “As always, no swimming is allowed at any time in Reston’s lakes and pet owners should check for floating blue-green algae before allowing pets in the water.”

The Environmental Protection Agency describes microcystin as “a potent liver toxin and possible human carcinogen.” It is the most widespread type of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, which may cause issues ranging from allergic reactions to gastroenteritis, liver and kidney failure or death, though cases of severe human health issues are relatively rare.

According to RA, algae blooms often appear when temperatures rise, but they usually occur later in the summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on July 9 that June 2021 was the hottest June on record in the U.S., though temperatures were average for this time of year in the D.C. area.

While fishing and boating on Lake Audubon are still permitted, users should “be careful to avoid the water,” RA says.

RA recommends staying in or on watercraft at all times, avoiding contact with algae, and not drinking water from lakes. The association also discourages people from eating fish caught in lakes.

“RA will be monitoring the lake closely to see if the toxin levels increase or decrease and will adjust the status from caution, danger or clear accordingly,” RA said.

Algae blooms have been a recurring issue at Reston lakes, including at Lake Audubon, which had a small bloom last August.

A particularly large bloom that appeared in Lake Thoreau that same month prompted RA to commit to spending more money on lake management this year in order to take a more proactive approach.

In addition to posing a potential health risk when in high concentrations, algae blooms can be devastating to freshwater ecosystems, as they can block out sunlight, clog fish gills, and create oxygen dead zones where no aquatic life can survive. Scientists say human activities and climate change are leading to more common and more toxic blooms.

According to the Reston Association, there is no method of removing toxins from lakes, but people can help prevent the nutrients that produce algae blooms from entering the water.

“The public can help reduce the occurrence of blue-green algae blooms by preventing nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from entering waterways through responsible use of lawn fertilizers, picking up pet waste, and controlling sediment erosion,” RA said in its statement.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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Fairfax County is looking at imposing a tax on single-use plastic bags (via Daniel Romero/Unsplash)

Fairfax County took a first step yesterday toward potentially taxing plastic bags used by grocery stores and other retailers.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 yesterday (Tuesday) to direct county staff to draft an plastic bag tax ordinance, but even supporters of the measure allowed that there remains some uncertainty around how exactly the tax would be implemented if approved.

“Let’s definitely try this, but we may end up back in the General Assembly in the foreseeable future to try to get clarification,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said, noting that the county is subject to the Dillon rule. “…This is probably a prime example of when we probably need a little more flexibility, but I’m all for it.”

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation during its 2020 session giving localities the authority to impose a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, starting on Jan. 1, 2021.

Roanoke became the first jurisdiction to take advantage of the new law when it adopted an ordinance in May that’s set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Under House Bill 534, which was identical to Senate Bill 11, cities and counties can tax each disposable plastic bag provided to customers by grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores. The tax would not apply to plastic bags designed to be reused, garbage bags, bags used to hold or package food to avoid damage or contamination, and ones used to carry prescription drugs or dry cleaning.

The legislation allows retailers to retain two cents from the imposed tax on each bag until Jan. 1, 2023, when the amount that goes to retailers drops to one cent.

That “dealer discount” provision is intended to help offset additional expenses retailers might incur from adjusting their operations, but it also puts added pressure on localities to adopt an ordinance as soon as possible, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

“We want to start the process of the ordinance review, looking at the language, the public input, because the clock literally is ticking,” McKay said.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Virginia Department of Taxation has not yet released guidelines clarifying what a plastic bag tax ordinance should look like, leaving questions around the definition of a grocery or convenience store, how the tax will be enforced, and other issues, County Executive Bryan Hill told the board in a Nov. 30 memorandum.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who introduced the board matter on Tuesday, said the draft guidance that county staff has seen and provided input on through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission will clear up many of those questions.

He hopes the guidelines will be finalized soon so county staff can incorporate them into the ordinance that they have now been directed to draft and present to the board in September.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, the lone Republican on the board, opposed the board matter, taking issue with the timing of the proposal. Read More

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Stephen Ambrose, SAIC’s chief climate scientist (courtesy SAIC)

The Reston-headquartered Fortune 500 company Science Applications International Corp. known as SAIC (12010 Sunset Hills Road), has hired its first chief climate scientist.

Stephen Ambrose joined the information technology and engineering government contractor in early May. His decades of previous experience in climate science includes a 25-year tenure at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Climate change is one of the grand challenges of our time,” Bob Genter, president of the defense and civilian sector at SAIC, said in a news release. “Stephen brings a wealth of experience and expertise to SAIC as we continue to help our customers rise to this challenge with solutions scaled to meet all levels of climate and disaster risk and adaptation.”

Ambrose is particularly interested in assisting government customers with strategic planning for disaster responses and preparation not just at the federal level, but also states and localities.

“How are we prepared for these disasters? More hurricanes. Stronger hurricanes. Flooding,” he said. “The most opportunity we should go forward with is…in that effort.”

Ambrose’s primary responsibilities include helping the company understand climate change and its impacts, examining the available science and technology and applying those to climate questions, and working with customers to address issues related to climate change, resilience, and adaptation.

“His experience will guide SAIC’s efforts to support government customers as they advance solutions to deal with the impacts of climate on land, air, sea, wildlife, and civilizations around the world,” the company said in the news release. “He’ll also promote solutions for measuring and addressing climate challenges, leveraging SAIC solutions and capabilities in data science, modeling, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.”

In addition to working for NOAA, Ambrose’s career includes stints with the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA, where he spent 10 years as a program manager executive for disasters, homeland security, and water resources.

Before joining SAIC, he was a senior advisor and program manager at General Dynamics Information Technology (3150 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church).

With about 26,000 employees, SAIC primarily contracts with the Army, Navy, and agencies in the Department of Defense, but it’s also served NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal partners.

In March, the company’s annual filing showed $7 billion in revenue for the past fiscal year — 98% of it involving the federal government.

SAIC’s decision to hire a chief climate scientist comes amid a renewed focus in the U.S. on addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

As one of his first executive actions, President Joe Biden set a goal to eliminate carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035. He also wants the country to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels and make all electricity renewable by 2035.

“You can tell by the administration and the focus on climate change, it’s just everyday…coming out from that so quickly, that we have to respond to that,” Ambrose said.

On a local level, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors pledged yesterday (Tuesday) to achieve carbon neutrality for all government operations by 2040, following up on a recommendation issued by the county’s Joint Environmental Task Force last year.

However, with county government facilities accounting for a relatively small amount of emissions, the private sector also needs to do its part to combat climate change, and Ambrose says SAIC is well-equipped to contribute.

He says his work will bring the company “to the forefront” of this issue, building off of ongoing efforts with different government agencies, from the Federal Aviation Administration to military bases.

“The team I have is growing rapidly,” Ambrose said. “I consider all of SAIC my team because I’m horizontal across all aspects of it.”

Ambrose says his first year on the job is more focused on planning, including developing a five-year plan with milestones for the company. He’s also working on some events to engage employees and the general community, starting with a public forum that will include a panel of speakers from NASA, NOAA, and universities.

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Food scraps composting (via Philip Cohen/Wikimedia)

Save those rotting veggies and bits of meat left over from last night’s dinner, because Fairfax County is expanding its composting program.

As of yesterday (Wednesday), residents can now bring their food scraps to four county farmers markets for composting. The locations include the Herndon Farmers Market, which operates from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Food scrap composting turns waste into a resource. Those wrinkling carrots or uneaten bread crusts can be transformed over time into natural fertilizer, putting nutrients back into the soil.

Proper composting can also prevent food waste from ending up in landfills and streams, taking up space and potentially damaging the ecosystem.

“The county is working to divert as much waste from disposal as possible,” Fairfax County Department of Public Works spokesperson Sharon North said in an email. “In the past few years, we have focused on glass recycling and reducing contamination to improve single stream recycling…Providing food scraps drop off locations will help divert this compostable material from disposal.”

North says food scraps can account for as much as 20% of waste, but nearly all of it can be composted, including meat, bones, dairy, vegetables, fruit and bread.

Some food-related paper products, such as paper plates, paper towels, and napkins, can be composted as well, as long as there’s no cleaning products or bodily fluids on them. Plastic bags, dryer sheets, yard waste, fats, oils, grease, tin foil, and foam containers, however, should never be composted.

Fairfax County first implemented a composting pilot program in November 2020 at two larger locations: the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton and I-66 Solid Waste Transfer Station in Fairfax.

North says the initial pilot program was a success, prompting county leaders to discuss options for an expansion.

“One of the main things we learned is that our residents are willing to separate out food scraps and bring them to compost drop off locations,” she writes.

The I-95 landfill and I-66 transfer station will remain permanent composting drop-off sites. The four farmers markets that are now part of the program’s expansion were specifically chosen due to their accessibility and central locations within the county.

Three of the markets, including the Herndon farmers market, are seasonal and managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Mosaic District farmers’ market is a year-round, private market operated by FreshFarm.

“Making locations more accessible throughout the county at Farmers Markets will allow for more opportunities to drop off food scraps for composting rather than having that material in the trash,” North said.

The compost program is expected to cost the county an estimated $50,000 annually.

Photo via Philip Cohen/Wikimedia

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(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) While most schools are wrapping up and kids are headed into vacation mode, Flint Hill School junior Zoe Bredesen is making her mark on Reston’s environment by organizing tree plantings.

A Girl Scout since she was 5, Bredesen is now pursuing the organization’s highest award with her goal to plant at least 400 trees throughout Fairfax County, and she is working with Reston Association to achieve it.

The Girl Scout website says scouts can earn the Gold Award by finishing at least 80 hours of community service and showing “proof that not only can she make a difference, but that she already has.”

Bredesen has been passionate about the environment for as long as she can remember.

“I grew up in a very forested area,” she said. “So, I’ve always just really loved trees and nature, and climate change is something that I’m very concerned about. It’s one that I think demands radical, substantial effort to combat.”

Bredesen recognized that her ability to bring about the large-scale changes necessary to address climate change on a global level was limited, so she decided to focus on a project that would make an impact in her local community.

“I can’t shut down BP Oil or make every county use sustainable energy,” Bredesen said. “…One thing that I can just do as just me is plant trees to take in some of the [carbon dioxide] and put out fresh oxygen to combat atmosphere pollution. So, that’s just what I’m doing as a single person trying to make a difference.”

Bredesen has now been working on the project for two years with assistance from fellow students in the environmental club that she leads at her school. The group has planted 250 trees to date.

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed their work due to the need to minimize the risk of close contact in large groups of people, Bredesen and her team have stayed committed to her goal.

Most recently, she worked with Reston Association volunteers and environmental resource staff to plant 40 trees along Moorings and North Shore Drive.

The next planting event will take on June 26 at 10 a.m., again in collaboration with RA.

In order to attend, participants must sign a COVID health waiver. Anyone who is interested in helping can contact Volunteer Reston Manager Ha Brock at [email protected].

Bredesen says she started working with RA, because she needed to get permission to plant on the grounds of their facilities. She has collaborated with other organizations as well, including Claude Moore Park and a homeowners’ association in Ashburn.

During her project, Bredesen has been helping train volunteers on how to plant and take care of the trees. She will be turning to the Reston community for help at the next planting, since many of her usual helpers from the school environemntal club will be away on summer vacation at that time.

Bredesen says spring is typically the best time to plant trees because that’s when they have the best chance of surviving. Summer into the early fall works as well, but trees have the “lowest chance of succession” during the winter months.

“Now that more people are getting vaccinated and covid restrictions are loosening, if we could get more people coming together to plant trees with the common goal of reducing our carbon footprint, I think that’d be awesome,” Bredesen said.

Photo via Volunteer Reston/Facebook

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Reston Association is looking at potentially introducing greater electric vehicle initiatives, but a months-long evaluation of the proposal’s feasibility has revealed some hurdles.

During the RA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, COO Larry Butler and Cam Adams, the director of covenants administration, presented findings from a study of electric vehicles and charging stations that the board unanimously approved on Feb. 25.

One of the motions approved in February directed RA staff to study the possibility of installing electric vehicle charging stations at one or more RA facilities. The other motion called for staff to review the potential replacement of the association’s current fleet of fossil-fueled vehicles over the next 10 years.

With notes from consulting firm Kimley-Horn, Butler said at last week’s meeting that the availability of electric vehicles does not meet the general needs necessary for the complete conversion of the fleet at this time.

Since the majority of RA’s fleet consists of trucks, the current design for electric trucks does not meet the association’s needs, according to Butler, who noted that they typically have shorter beds than fossil-fuel versions and lack power capabilities for towing, hauling, or snow plowing.

However, he clarified that “this is really just the beginning of this investigation,” and the review to switch to electric vehicles will continue.

“The market isn’t there yet. It’s moving very fast,” Butler said.

He told the board that Kimley-Horn had recommended reevaluating electric vehicle options “every two to three, maybe four, years.”

“As the market becomes more robust with the types of vehicles, the cost of those because the competition will also come down…we’ll be in a better place to really look at more wholesale conversion,” he said.

There will remain consideration in the budget for electric vehicles, but a full conversion is not yet possible, in Butler’s opinion.

“We are in the early stages of going from fossil to electric. You’ve raised, I think, what are the major issues,” RA Director Bob Petrine said after Butler’s presentation. “I think the biggest single one is there isn’t at the moment a good break-even point. The trucks that are in offing are more toys than they are work trucks.”

Adams followed this discussion by addressing the board’s Jan. 28 directive to study how RA, the Design Review Board, and the covenants committee can assist clusters considering the installation of EV charging stations.

He suggested that a draft guideline could be presented to the DRB when it meets in July but estimated a final draft will take about five months to prepare, potentially for presentation in October.

While the Design Review Board has already approved six separate types of EV installations, it does not have an established guideline “that the DRB can objectively review that application,” according to Adams.

He added that the board would probably review any request submitted for an EV installations and that each “will evaluate it in a certain level of reasonableness that’s appropriate.”

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(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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The cicadas are here, along with a new rap about the insects from local hip-hop artist MC Bugg-Z.

“Brood X-cellence” is a deep rhyming dive into the entomology, science, and emergence of Brood X, the periodical cicadas that are just now surfacing from their 17-year slumber underground.

Lines like “I have been chilling underground with my friends sippin on root juices” and “It’s a fitness thing, you’re witnessing predator satiation” will certainly have wings flapping and red eyes darting.

The song is written and performed by MC Bugg-Z, who isn’t just any old bug-loving underground hip-hop artist. He’s an entomologist and biologist who works for Fairfax County.

“I’m part of the Fairfax County Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health and, inside the Division of Environmental Health, we have the disease-carrying insects program,” Andy Lima said. “That’s my normal, real-life job.”

Lima has been writing and recording underground hip-hop since his college days in the mid-2000s with a focus on intelligent lyric writing.

“It’s more about the rhymes than the beats,” Lima said. “I love to convey the knowledge about the things I love and the world I know…by putting it into hip-hop song form.”

In Lima’s case, that’s bugs, and this isn’t his first foray into the emerging genre of insect rap.

In 2016, he released “Zika 101” about protecting oneself from disease-carrying mosquitoes. In 2018, there was “Tick-Check 1-2” about checking for ticks and avoiding Lyme Disease, followed a year later by “West Nile Story.”

While cicadas are not known to carry disease, Lima couldn’t skip the opportunity for a new song about a bug.

“Brood X-cellence” is a remix or sequel of sorts to a cicada rap he wrote back in 2004, when the brood last emerged. He was a student at Indiana University back then, and the din of the cicadas could actually be heard in the background of the recording.

“I was going to just re-release that one this year and just felt like there were things about the song that I wanted to change, new information that I wanted to include and, also, some errors,” Lima said. “I’ve learned some stuff over the past 17 years…Now, the focus is much more on the biology of it as opposed to the spectacle itself.”

When he writes songs, Lima takes a reverse-engineered approach. He thinks about how he wants to end a line and then finds a rhyme to match it.

“I don’t shy away from the scientific words because they are multi-syllables,” Lima said. “You can often find a way to rhyme them or, even, define some of these terms [in the rhyme]…like predator satiation.”

It took about two weeks to write, re-work, and record “Brood X-cellence.” The beat was provided by Kelton Williams, another Fairfax County employee who Lima met while helping with COVID-19 emergency response.

“He’s a great musician,” said Lima. “As soon as I heard [his beat], I thought ‘Oh man, this is going down.'”

The main takeaway that Lima wants folks to get from the song is that this cicada takeover is an incredibly rare and amazing occurrence.

“It’s a fleeting event, a miracle of nature,” he said. “It really only occurs in the eastern half of the United States and nowhere else in the world…It’s just so rare that the public is kind of overrun with insects.”

He hopes his bug rap educates, entertains, and allows folks to have a little fun after a difficult year.

With the temperatures warming, particularly in the evening, the cicadas are expected to come out of the ground en masse within a matter of days, looking to play their own song.

“We’re really going to see the surge that’s just beyond,” Lima said. “So, hopefully my song is well-timed.”

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The Reston National Golf Course has launched a new study group to help understand the property’s past and current conditions and future plans for the neighborhood’s natural environment.

Funded by Virginia Investment Partners LLC, which owns the 168-acre golf course, the Reston National Neighborhood Study Group is focusing on six primary categories: open space, amenities, tree canopies, safety, housing costs, and water quality.

The group hosted its first community meeting on May 13 with the Hunters Green community, and at least additional conversations are planned, according to study group leader Greg Hamm.

As founder and president of the real estate planning firm New City Enterprises, Hamm represents the developers Weller Development Cos. and War Horse Cities, which purchased the golf course in 2019.

Hamm says the community conversations are intended to provide transparency for the study group’s work and opportunities for public engagement, particularly with adjacent neighbors like the Hunters Green Cluster, which shares almost six miles of property with the golf course.

“This is a very important piece of property, and it’s a very important topic and issue to many people,” Hamm said. “…It’s a big responsibility on us to really listen, engage and be creative and thoughtful in how we are stewards of this property and this important piece of the community. So, there are going to be lots of ideas, lots of opinions, lots of very important concerns that we have to address.”

The conversations will touch on shared property lines, trees, and the vegetative state of the surrounding property, including how to address invasive plant species, along with other challenges identified by the study group and neighbors.

Other topics include understanding the trail network and engaging in conversation about permanent open spaces, a recurring concern in Reston when it comes to golf courses.

While an effort to update Reston’s comprehensive plan is ongoing, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has maintained that he would not support amending the plan to allow for development on the area’s two golf courses, though a proposal to build townhomes near the Hidden Creek Country Club course is currently working its way through Fairfax County’s planning process.

Hamm says the Neighborhood Study Group will be guided by the seven founding principles laid out by Reston founder Robert E. Simon.

“We think that keeping in the spirit of Reston and master planning, and community building, there’s some ways we could go about possibly addressing some of these things that could be very positive,” Hamm said.

Hamm added that these conversations will not result in an overnight transformation, but he hopes to encourage an open dialogue so the study group can work with surrounding community members and learn about their concerns or ideas.

“We want to make sure we genuinely thought through and understand the major underpinning issues the community has about our future and their future,” Hamm said. “Part of that is enabling them to understand what’s happening already.”

Photo via Reston National Golf Course/Facebook

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This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The highlight of last week along with Earth Day was the announcement by President Joe Biden that the United States is returning to the Paris Climate Agreement. The Agreement that was adopted by nearly 200 nations of the world came into being in 2016. President Barack Obama led the United States in joining the Agreement that united the world’s nations for the first time in a single understanding on global warming and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The only other example of something like this agreement previously was the Montreal Protocol in which 197 countries agreed in 1987 to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Scientists had discovered that CFC was causing a hole in the ozone layer which if not stopped would lead to disastrous health results. All nations banned CFC as a result. The United States estimates that because of the ban by the year 2065 more than 6.3 million skin cancer deaths would have been avoided and between 1985 and the year 2100 Americans avoiding suffering from cataracts would number 22 million.

With the Montreal Protocol the leaders of the world responded to scientific findings, prevented a huge amount of human suffering, and saved trillions of dollars in healthcare costs. On the subject of climate change and global warming there are those who want to continue to debate scientific findings and ignore the evidence that is becoming even more apparent that the earth is heating up and the consequences are going to be devastating if action is not taken right away.

The Paris Climate Agreement commits nations of the world to take action to keep global temperature well below the pre-industrial level of 2.0C or 3.6F and endeavor to limit temperature rise to 1.5C. The Agreement limits the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and water can naturally absorb. Each country sets its own emission-reduction targets that are reviewed every five years. The Agreement has richer nations helping poorer countries with financing to switch to renewable energy.

While the United States left the Agreement for a short time under the previous president the announcement by President Biden restores the United States to its rightful role of being a leader in ending climate change. Many states and cities had pledged to seek these goals even when the country for a short time seemed not willing to. After all the United States is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases exceeded only by China. Beyond re-joining the Agreement, the President is committing the United States to more aggressive actions to cut emissions by 2030 rather than 2050 that scientists now say is necessary if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Just as nations came together to rid the world of CFC and prevent major health horrors, I believe that nations can come together to provide responsible leadership and actions to stop climate change. It will cost money to do so, but the savings to the planet will be inestimable. We will end fossil fuel use, control carbon release, and adopt more alternative and resilient ways of living and doing things. Our country can and will be a leader in these planet-saving changes!

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Morning Notes

D.C. Region Backs Statehood for Capital — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors, which consists of elected officials from D.C. area governments, unanimously passed a resolution yesterday (Wednesday) urging Congress to “establish the state of Washington, D.C. without delay.” Fairfax County was represented on a task force dedicated to the issue of D.C. statehood by Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk. [MWCOG]

NoVA to Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments — Virginia Vaccine Program Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula says that COVID-19 vaccine appointments will become more readily available in Northern Virginia “in the next couple of weeks.” Loudoun County and the City of Alexandria have already entered Phase 2, but appointments may initially become harder to schedule when localities like Fairfax County expand eligibility. [WTOP]

Bilingual Election Officers Needed for Primary — The Fairfax County Office of Elections is looking for individuals who speak English and Vietnamese or Korean to serve as election officers for the Democratic primary on June 8. The application deadline is on April 28. [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

Reston Association Thanks Trash Clean-up Volunteers — “Many thanks to all the volunteers who took part in last Saturday’s 33rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup coordinated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. A total of 93 volunteers collected 115 bags of trash.” [RA/Twitter]

Comscore Partners with Atlas Obscura — The Reston-based media analytics company Comscore announced an agreement yesterday with the online guidebook and travel company Atlas Obscura. The deal gives Atlas Obscura access to Comscore’s data platform so that it can “better understand audience behavior and media consumption across desktop and mobile devices.” [PR Newswire/WFMZ-TV]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Metro Board Debates Lowering Fares — “During the transit authority’s bi-monthly board meeting Thursday, four board members voiced support for a flurry of proposals that would simplify or reduce rail fees, including lower fares and eliminating rush hour peak pricing.” [DCist]

Paycheck Protection Program Deadline Extended — The deadline for small businesses to apply for forgivable loans from the federal COVID-19 relief program has been extended to May 31. The new PPP application period includes a 14-day window exclusively open to businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Virginia to Overhaul Police Shooting Investigations — “Virginia’s attorney general and the state’s NAACP announced Wednesday that they are launching a collaborative effort to bring more transparency, impartiality and public confidence to the way police shootings are investigated across the commonwealth.” [The Washington Post]

Hunter Mill Supervisor to Assist with Potomac River Cleanup — “Help clean up our beautiful communities! This Saturday, April 10 is the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. I’ll be participating in events in Reston and the weather looks good, so please consider joining us!” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Federal Assistance Available to Shuttered Venues — The Small Business Association’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program is now accepting applicants seeking assistance with payroll, rent, and other expenses. Supported by $16 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, the program is open to live venue operators, promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organizations, museums, zoos, aquariums and theaters. [Fairfax County Government]

RCC Unveils Plans to Celebrate Earth Day — Reston Community Center’s 2021 Earth Day activities will include a photo scavenger hunt, play-dough making, storytelling, and supplies for a home herb garden. Advance registration and face masks are required for the Green Reston program on April 24. [Patch]

Photo via Mary Dominiak/Twitter

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

As a child of frugal parents who grew up during the Great Depression, I was always taught as long as I did not waste food or material things that I would never be without. “Waste not, want not” was an oft-heard slogan around our house. I carried my lunch to school in a brown paper bag that was recycled from our grocery store purchases, and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich was wrapped in wax paper. After lunch I would fold up the wax paper inside the bag and carry it home in my back pocket for use the next day. I could generally go an entire week without the need for another bag or more wax paper.

Needless to say, I feel a high level of discomfort with our current throw-away society. Not only do we consume ever-increasing levels of natural resources, but we create mountains of waste and the resulting degradation of our environment. Nowhere is the problem more evident than with plastic products. My paper bag and wax paper have been replaced with plastic bags for chips, a plastic container for fruit or dessert, a plastic sandwich wrapper and a drink in a plastic bottle. The manufacturer’s ability to find new uses and the public’s willingness to accept them seem unlimited

A two-year research project by the Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, Ltd., a London-based environmental think tank, estimates that by 2040 the amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year will triple to 29 million metric tons. Its report “Breaking the Plastic Wave” lists challenging actions that need to be taken to reverse this dangerous threat to our environment. (www.pewtrusts.org, July 2020). The Report was peer reviewed and presented in the journal Science (science.sciencemag.org, July 2020).

The report calls for a wholesale remaking of the global plastics industry by shifting to a circular economy that reuses and recycles plastics. It discusses ten critical findings “showing that a path forward to a low plastic pollution future already exists–now we have to make the choice to walk this path.” The Virginia General Assembly took two steps on the pathway to reduce plastic pollution.

A bill on which I was a co-patron passed and which the Governor has now signed into law prohibits the use of expanded polystyrene food containers, the white foam containers that break into endless number of pieces and litter our beaches and roadsides. The legislature also passed a bill designating advanced recycling as a manufacturing process that must follow all federal and state environmental regulations and laws and a budget amendment I introduced to require the Department of Environmental Quality to monitor the newly-emerging industry. Governor Northam recently signed a new executive order that will decrease plastic pollution and reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfills by phasing out single-use plastics at state agencies.

Clearly the General Assembly must take more aggressive actions in the future to reduce the use of plastics, provide for their reuse or recycling, and recognize that multiple strategies must be taken if the challenges that the Pew study identified are to be addressed. Citizens can join in taking voluntary actions to make choices in the marketplace of alternatives to plastics. Returning to a paper lunch bag or reusable container is a good idea, but the reuse of wax paper is not recommended!

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New electric vehicle charging stations are coming to Target in Reston this summer.

While the stations have been installed, they won’t go live until the summer. Four 150 kilowatt-hour chargers are planned at Target, which is located at 12197 Sunset Hills Road.

The stations are powered by Electrify America, a Reston-based company that promotes zero-emission vehicle adoption through an a fast and convenient charging network across the country.

The company, which was founded in 2016, currently does not have plans for additional stations in Reston and Herndon, a company spokesperson told Reston Now. But other locations are planned in Northern Virginia.

So far, the company has built more than 570 charging stations with around 2,500 individual chargers. Last year, Electrify America also completed two cross-country routes.

Roughly 800 total stations with about 3,500 chargers that are specifically designed for quick charging are planned by the end of this year.

The expansion at Target is part of a nationwide push to expand electric vehicle charging option. In 2018, Target announced that it plans to add the stations to 600 parking spaces at more than 100 sites across more than 20 states.

“Accelerating our efforts to install new charging stations at Target stores across the country is one way we’re building on our commitment to investing in solutions that leave our communities better for future families,” said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target.  

Photo via Matt Bianco

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Morning Notes

County Seeks Help with Vaccinations — The county’s health department is hiring roughly 250 vaccinators. Interested candidates should have experience vaccinating and hold a current license or multistate licensure privilege. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Association Election Underway — Voting ends on April 2 at 5 p.m. Four candidates are running for two at-large seats and one person is vying for the South Lakes District seat. A 10 percent quorum is required for the results of the election to be considered valid. [Reston Today]

Local Organizations Receive Homeless Reduction Grants — Twelve projects in the Northern Virginia area received a total of $2.1 million in state grants from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Reston-based nonprofit organization Cornerstones received $100,000 to fund housing stabilization case management. [Patch]

State Bans Single-Use Styrofoam — Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a bill into law that bans the use of Styrofoam cups and food takeout containers. Food chains with 20 or more locations cannot package or dispense food in the containers beginning July 2023. [Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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