A Green Community: The State of our Streams

By: John Paul Miller

John Paul Miller, Water Resources PlannerAnnandale is named for a Scottish town along the mouth of the Annan River and features a tree prominently on its flag, so it should come as no surprise that it takes great pride in being a green community. First time visitors quickly note the thick, mature stands of forest that shade local neighborhoods and provide ample recreation amongst the twenty-six parks contained within its boundaries. The Accotink Creek and Holmes Run stream valleys comprise the backbone of these forest parcels and serve as precious urban green space for both road-weary residents and wildlife. While these well-trodden green corridors may appear widely appreciated and valued, the waterways that sustain them remain in a substantially degraded condition.

Accotink Creek and Holmes Run are both listed in violation of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act as polluted waters. This means these waters are too polluted to meet basic water quality standards, such as being swimmable and fishable. States must develop cleanup plans once a waterway is identified as polluted and placed on this list. These cleanup plans identify how much pollution must be reduced to improve water quality and are known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). TMDLs are essentially a diet for a waterway, except that instead of limiting the intake of calories, the amount of pollution entering a waterway is restricted.

The primary pollutant of concern for Accotink Creek is sediment, which comes from eroded soil and sand. Sediment naturally enters streams and may seem innocuous. However, excessive sediment in streams acts similar to high cholesterol clogging the bloodstream – it reduces streams natural ability to flow and smothers habitat for aquatic life.

Most excess sediment comes from stormwater runoff, which occurs when rainfall hits an impervious surface that cannot absorb it (roadways, parking lots, driveways, etc.) so it rapidly flows over the ground surface. Stormwater runoff increases dramatically in urban areas, with numerous studies showing that impairment begins in streams if more than 10% of the surrounding land is impervious. Severe impairments typically occur when these surfaces makeup more than 25% of the landscape.  This will not surprise anyone from Annandale who has been unable to drive on Woodburn Road after a thunderstorm due to flooding. Accotink Creek, which normally flows below Woodburn Road, is 27% impervious (Holmes Run is 25% impervious). 

It may be easy to point fingers or blame one segment of society for this pollution, but the reality is that we are all part of the problem. We live and do business in Annandale. We commute to and from work on paved roads, shop at stores with parking lots, and live in homes or apartments with roofs that divert rainfall. That’s why we should all work to improve the health of Annandale’s streams. As the pioneer of investigative journalism S.S. McClure once exhorted to his readers in response to the woes facing turn of the century America, “There is no one left; none but all of us.” Consider these words the next time you are stuck in traffic due to flooding or visiting your local park and taking a walk along a stream. Our quality of life in Annandale is inextricably linked to the health of our local waterways.

There are a number of ways you or your business can take action now:

Þ Consider installing porous pavers if you are adding to your driveway, garden walks, or parking lot, these surfaces allow stormwater to slowly filter through the soil on its  way to the stream. They also may reduce flooding on your property and enhance its aesthetic value.

Þ At home you can install rain barrels to collect water for your own use or direct rainspouts to your yard or garden. These both reduce runoff and help save money on your monthly water bill.

Þ Become a volunteer stream monitor and collect valuable data on stream health. You will learn a great deal about the natural environment and provide crucial data to inform how best to restore our waterways. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District organizes these programs for our area.

Þ If you own a business, consider joining Businesses for the Bay (B4B).  www.businesses.allianceforthebay.org/  This program encourages businesses within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to take voluntary and measurable actions to support protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Businesses for the Bay offers the perfect way to help your business connect with other businesses, share success stories as well as sustainability challenges, positively impact your community, and reach your business’ sustainability goals.

Rain barrels capture excess water from rain fall, & save it for use in dry periods.  Rain Barrels can be installed as part of a homeowner’s gutter system.  Later, this water can be used to water the garden & lawns or wash cars during dry periods. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, rain barrels can save a homeowner 1300 gallons of water during peak summer months, and therefore electricity as well.

Interested in installing a rain barrel on your property? Check out the Chesapeake Bay Trust's  www.cbtrust.org/site/c.miJPKXPCJnH/b.5458173/k.8975/Rain_Barrels.htm for information on cost, where to place them, and a list of materials.

The ENDEAVOR News Magazine is proud to introduce a new columnist, John Paul Miller, who will be contributing regularly on Environmental issues.  Mr. Miller was born and raised in Annandale, and currently resides in Annandale.

 John Paul Miller is a Water Resources Planner with Amec Foster Wheeler.  He holds a Master's in Water Resources Management from Duke University and a BS in Environmental Policy & Planning from Virginia Tech.  He has a diverse professional background working on issues for local government, the non-profit sector, academic research and private consulting. His most recent work involves helping local governments with their stormwater permits for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.


(Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, requires the written permission of the author.   Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites. 


 Henry Ford


(Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved.  (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)


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