Weekly Column: VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up
The following appeared in the Stafford and Potomac Local on May 25, 2015.
VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up
As the weather warms and summer nears, we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia. Several paving projects are coming to eastern Prince William County and northern Stafford County in the 36th District.
|Click to Enlarge|
VDOT plans to pave I-95 from Neabsco Creek to Smoketown Road, all of VA-123 and Old Bridge Road from VA-123 to Minnieville. Cardinal Drive will get a new surface from U.S. 1 to Minnieville as well. Southbridge will see new blacktop in on Wayside Lane, Pine Ridge Boulevard and several surrounding streets. VDOT will pave the entire length of Joplin Road from U.S. 1 to Bristow Road and all the streets of the entire town of Quantico. Main Street (U.S. 1) between Curtis Drive and Quantico Gateway Drive through Dumfries is also scheduled to be repaved.
Many of Stafford County's secondary roads are in better condition than streets in other areas since many are newer. In northeastern Stafford County, VDOT will resurface half a dozen streets around Dorothy Lane and Anita Drive in Garrisonville with all of Stefaniga Road.
Legislature Addressed Road Neglect
Over 70% of Northern Virginia's secondary roads, roads numbered over 600, have been rated as having substandard pavement quality and despite my efforts, the state legislature has not met the challenge. From 1987 to 2013, the Virginia General Assembly refused to raise Virginia’s $0.17/gallon gas tax to even keep up with inflation. As salaries, the cost of materials and infrastructure needs all increased, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had to prioritize funds for other critical maintenance needs. As a result, VDOT limited grass mowing, prioritized primary and interstate highway maintenance and curtailed secondary road paving. Deficient road pavement has been a consistent, frequent complaint since I have been in office these last six years.
In 2013, the legislature replaced the retail fixed gas tax with a wholesale percentage gas tax plus an overall sales tax supplement, steps which restored some roads and maintenance funding . We also passed a series of local taxes to fund transportation construction, but these taxes do not apply to Stafford County which is in the Fredericksburg Transportation District. Last year, VDOT started a major phase of paving in our communities as the direct result of this infusion of funds.
VDOT tries to bid out paving projects based on need and geographic location. Contractors may provide competitive bids when projects are conducted all within compact areas. This is why VDOT usually does not repave random streets miles apart (there are some exceptions). Also, typically, not but always, roads in entire neighborhoods tend to deteriorate at the same rate.
I am pleased that VDOT is finally taking steps to properly maintain our roadways, but VDOT still has a huge amount of catchup ahead. Nearly every secondary road in Woodbridge still has substandard pavement quality and after this summer, and over 50 percent of Virginia's 36th Senate District’s roads will still need repaving. You can find a map of the 36th Senate District at https://scottsurovell.net/district-36. If you review the entire Northern Virginia map at www.virginiaroads.org, you can see that we are very lucky to be getting attention this summer given the massive backlog. I am working to make our area a continuing priority after this year.
Our experience over the last two decades is a basic lesson in the consequences of starving basic government services. If we do not keep our revenues commensurate with our needs, from schools to health clinics to roads, infrastructure and quality of life will suffer. In 2013, with bipartisan support, the state legislature addressed the transportation revenue shortfall and you are now seeing the results. These steps can likely save your family an alignment or a tire or two.
If you have any questions or complaints, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to a state delegate and I look forward to earning your vote as your State Senator.
2015 Amundson Institute Presents Policy Projects
This past year, I held my 5th consecutive Amundson Institute. This engaging program was orginially
founded by my predecessor, the Honorable Kris Amundson. This program allows for the 44th District high school juniors and seniors that qualify for the program to join me during the Virginia Legislative Session. During this time, the students experience the Virginia state government first hand, while learning the intricate legislative process.
I was fortunate enough to have 6 very qualified students from Mount Vernon and West Potomac High School join me in Richmond this year and see what the politicians they read about do. From West Potomac High School, we had Kelly O'Meara, Margret O'Meara, Jayne Orleans and Emma Kelly. From Mount Vernon High School, we had Catherine Ming and Taamson Joshua. These 6 students were chosen because they demonstrated a passion for their school work, community and leadership.
While the primary component of the institute is the trip to Richmond, I also require that each individual student pick an issue to present that they are both passionate about and pertains to the 44th District. In the former years, I have drafted bills based on these projects.
This year, the students addressed a variety of subjects:
***To see a specific student's presentation, please click on their name and you will be redirected to their project***
- Ms. Emma Kelly, a junior at West Potomac High School, presented on the need for free screenings for 504 Plans for standardized testing. A 504 Plan is used to ensure that students with mental or phyiscal handicaps receive the help and assistance they need in order to succeed in school. Currently, children who are physically and mentally disabled that need a 504 Plan evaluation, but cannot afford it are suffering during standardized tests due to lack if assistance. Ms. Kelly proposes a bill that would allow these economically disadvantaged households easier access by requiring schools to have therapists in place that are able to diagnose and implement a plan to help these students succeed.
- Ms. Jayne Orleans, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed implementing riparian buffers to protect the Potomac River from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. In large quantities, these pollutants create Dead Zones, areas of water with excessive nutrient pollution, that causes aquatic life to either leave the area or die. Ms. Orleans proposes that by utilizing riparian buffers, we would be able to help protect our local water and environment from excessive runoff.
- Mr. Kelly O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed mandating school programs that would teach both parents and students how to effectively manage teen stress. Mr. O'Meara came up with this proposal due to the recent increase in teen suicide because of academic and social pressures. He proposes that by encouraging more mandated and open communication between students and their families, we might be able to help parents and children learn how to balance school work, while encouraging stress-reliving personal time.
- Ms. Catherine Ming, a senior at Mount Vernon High School, presented a project that would implement a container deposit law that would encourage recycling by refunding those who return recyclable bottles. This bill would require a refundable deposit on containers that are turned into mandated locations. This practice would encourage responsibility and reduce waste.
- Ms. Margaret O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, presented the need for crosswalks along US 1 to ensure pedestrian safety. With the increase in traffic on US 1, there is an increase in the need for protective travel measures. Ms. O'Meara proposed installing more cross walks and traffic lights to help ensure pedestrian welfare.
From environmental issues to disability service accessibility, the Amundson Institute students provided well-researched and thought out projects. It was my pleasure to show such a distinguished group of young leaders an inside look of their state government.
Weekly Column: Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44th District
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 9, 2015.
Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44thDistrict
As the weather warms and we approach the summer, it also means that we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia, and good news is coming for the 44th District.
From 1987 to 2013, the General Assembly refused to raise Virginia’s $0.17/gallon gas tax to even keep up with inflation. As salaries, the cost of materials, and infrastructure needs all increased, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had to prioritize funds for other critical maintenance needs. As a result, grass mowing was massively limited, primary and interstate maintenance was prioritized and secondary road paving was limited. Over 70% of secondary roads in Northern Virginia were rated to have substandard pavement quality (secondary roads are roads numbered over 600).
Over the last six years I have been in office, I have consistently received complaints about pavement quality – especially on major secondary arteries like Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane.
As I began receiving annual paving reports from VDOT, I began to question why only a handful of roads, usually totaling less than one mile were being paved in the 44th District. The answer was always lack of funding, but I could not help but notice more activity in others parts of Northern Virginia so I began to be the squeaky wheel.
In 2013, the legislature raised a series of taxes to help fund our roads and maintenance funding was restored. Last year, we saw the first major batch of paving in our community as the direct result of this.
VDOT tries to bid out paving projects on need and geographic location. Contractors may provide on competitive bids when projects are conducted all within compact areas. This is why VDOT usually does not repave random streets miles apart (there are some exceptions). Also, typically – not but always – roads in entire neighborhoods deteriorate at the same rate.
This is why last year, the rest of Fort Hunt Road was paved along with Sherwood Hall Lane which was also restriped for bike lanes, and paving was completed nearby neighborhoods including major areas of Hollin Hills, Bucknell Heights, Bucknell Manor, Mason Hill, Hollindale, Hybla Valley Farms, along with a few roads in Wellington.
This year, much more is planned aided in part by a mild winter (less money spent on snow removal). The short version is that if you live in between U.S. 1, Fort Hunt Road, and Little Hunting Creek, plus the Belleview/New Alexandria area, your road is getting repaved if it did not happen in the last two years. VDOT also plans to pave all of Mount Vernon Memorial Highway from U.S. 1 down to the Mount Vernon Estate and then back out to Woodlawn.
We will also be getting new bike lanes after repaving on Fordson Road, Quander Road, Hinson Farm Road, Parkers Lane/Collingwood Road, and Beacon Hill Road/Belleview Boulevard.
Next year, VDOT plans to work on the areas on the east side of Fort Hunt Road and start moving into neighborhoods in 22309 and the west side of U.S. 1.
If you would like to see a more detailed map including your specific street you can go to my online newsletter, The Dixie Pig at scottsurovell.blogspot.com.
I am pleased that VDOT is finally taking steps to properly maintain our roadways, but VDOT still has a huge amount of catchup to play. Nearly every secondary road in the 44thDistrict has substandard pavement quality and after this summer, fifty percent (50%) of the 44th District’s roads will still be in need of repaving. You can look at the entire map in Northern Virginia at www.virginiaroads.organd see that we are very lucky to be getting the attention this summer that we are.
Our experience over the last two decades is a basic lesson in the consequences of starving basic government services. If we do not keep our revenues commensurate with our needs, infrastructure and quality of life will suffer. In 2013, taxes were raised and you are now seeing the results and that the results will consequently save your family a couple alignments or a tire or two.
If you have any questions or complaints, please contact me at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your delegate.
Screenshots of planned paving are below taken from VDOT's website (black hatching = planned paving and blue = roads paved last year) - click on each picture to enlarge
. Alternatively, you can go to www.virginiaroads.org
for an interactive map.
Surovell Receives Consumer Protection Award
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** More Information: Megan Howard, 703.850.8618 SUROVELL RECEIVES CONSUMER PROTECTION AWARD Mt. Vernon, VA- Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44) was presented with the "Champions of Consumer Rights" Award by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) over the weekend. The award recognizes his years of advocacy to protect consumers, push back against predatory lending and House Bill 2015 which seeks to provide exemptions related to child care support.
NACBA President Edward Boltz stated, “We are pleased to recognize Delegate Scott Surovell with the award in recognition of his tireless advocacy for consumers, including his work in combatting abuses by payday lenders and car title lenders, and particularly his successful effort, working with NACBA members in Virginia, to enact legislation to protect Virginians in bankruptcy from having their child support, spousal support, and earned income tax credits taken by bankruptcy trustees.”
The legislation, House Bill 2015, provides modifications to bankruptcy exemptions related to child care support and allows an individual filing bankruptcy or subject to judgment collections to exempt child and spousal support arrearages from actions to collect debts by creditors. It also allowed debtors to spread existing exemptions for individual vehicles or firearms among multiple assets instead of having to claim only one car of firearm as exempt.
The award also recognized Delegate Surovell’s work to restrict car title lenders in Virginia. Ten car title lender locations have opened on the U.S. 1 Corridor between the beltway and Fort Belvoir since 2011. These predatory lenders target low income families in severe financial distress and active duty military service members. They charge interest rates up to 30% per month and annual percentage rates of nearly 300% per year. The proliferation of these businesses acts as a hindrance to high quality development and targets the most vulnerable in the community.
Delegate Surovell's effort to combat predatory lending was also featured in the December 26, 2014 issue of the New York Times regarding the explosion of subprime consumer lending in the United States.
Delegate Surovell stated, “I am proud to have successfully passed legislation to protect families during bankruptcy proceedings. Child support is paid to support children, not creditors. The earned income tax credit is not a refund of taxes paid and is an effective anti-poverty program. It is not a creditor's lottery ticket. I will continue to push back against those who target consumers and cause a cycle of debt for low income families in Virginia. Thank you to the NACBA for their consumer advocacy and for recognizing me with the Champion of Consumer Rights Award.”
The award is given in recognition of and appreciation for extraordinary service in protecting American Consumers and, in particular, the recipient’s critical role in preserving the rights of consumer debtors in need of bankruptcy relief. This year's award recipients also included Rohit Chopra, Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Congress Tries to Breach Metro Obligations Again
The House Appropriations Committee has once again threatened to pull money the Federal Government promised for Metro.
Back in 2005, then-Congressmen Tom Davis, Frank Wolf and Jim Moran, began the push to secure $150 million per year for ten years
from the federal government to fund infrastructure upgrades on Metro provided that such monies were matched dollar-for-dollar by Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. In 2009, it came close to passing
, and it was finally secured in the appropriations act for 2011 which was passed in 2010.
Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia began budgeting to make their contributions and has met their obligation since this deal was struck. Also, all three jurisdictions also changed the WMATA Compact to add another seat for the federal government in light of its contribution. Now - Metro is on track to receive a $3 billion infusion over a ten year period.
However, after the change in party control of Congress, the new majority immediately started talking about revoking this promise. In 2011, Congress attempted to remove this funding, but it was rebuffed by Congressman Connolly, Moran, Hoyer, Edwards, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Horton
. I spoke on the floor of the House of Delegates about this attack. You can see my remarks on the right.
This week, House Appropriators have once again opening their budget negotiations by trying to cut these monies
One would think after multiple deadly accidents due to failing infrastructure, clearly documented infrastructure problems, and a system that is bursting at the seams due to heavy use, Congress would see the need to continue funding this program. Metro is a service, not just to our region, but to the entire country. Without Metro, Washington, D.C.'s ceremonial core, inaugurations, and other public events would not be nearly as feasible.
Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have kept up their end of the bargain. It's time for Congress to stop playing politics with the Metro system and honor its promises.
NVTA, CTB ANNOUNCE NEW FUNDING FOR U.S. 1 IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
April 24, 2015
NVTA, CTB ANNOUNCE NEW FUNDING FOR U.S. 1 IMPROVEMENT PROJECTSMt Vernon, VA—The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) announced two separate projects this week to improve the U.S. 1 Corridor in Northern Virginia.The CTB’s new Six Year Improvement Plan (SYIP) proposes $4 million allocated to fund the preliminary engineering and environmental impact analysis for Phase I and II recommended by recently completed the Route 1 Multimodal Study. This would include planning to lay the groundwork to implement median-dedicated bus rapid transit from Huntington to Fort Belvoir as an intermediate measure leading to a two-stop extension of the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley.
Local Leaders Applaud Acceleration of Funding for U.S. 1 Road Widening & Multimodal Transit Improvements
In addition to the CTB funding, NVTA voted to fund $1 million as part of the FY 15-16 Two Year Program to widen U.S. 1 between Napper Rd. (Costco) and Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway (Fort Belvoir) on top of $9 million provided from federal surface transportation funds. The NVTA Funding will provide for the initial design and environmental analysis of widening the three-mile segment, reserving space for the future bus rapid transit system contemplated by Phases I and II of the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternatives Analysis Study and constructing a sidewalk and multi-use path along the entire improvement.“I am very pleased to hear that widening Route 1 in Hybla Valley is moving forward,” Senator Toddy Puller stated, “I have fought for improvements to Route 1 for over 20 years, patroning my first piece of legislation for Route 1 back in 1994. These improvements will provide congestion relief and economic opportunity to our community."The NVTA had originally recommended not funding this project this cycle. However, after Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova and Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay requested an NVTA hearing on U.S. 1, over 130 people attended the public hearing and voiced the desperate need for the U.S. 1 Road Widening.“Improving Route 1 is a high priority for Fairfax County,” Chairman Bulova stated. “This is exactly the type of project the General Assembly had in mind when it approved historic transportation funding legislation in 2013. The planned improvements for Route 1 is regionally significant, will reduce congestion, and will provide commuters and visitors with new travel options. These investments, along with federal funds already committed by the NVTA, will help attract new private investment to the corridor. As Fairfax County’s representative on NVTA, I am pleased to be able to advance this important transportation project.”In addition to the support expressed at the public hearing, Delegate Scott Surovell and 44th District House of Delegates Candidate Paul Krizek submitted five hundred petition signatures urging prioritization of the project in this year's two-year plan.Delegate Scott Surovell stated, “The community spoke loud and clear that it is time to start getting shovels in the ground on U.S. 1, making improvements to our core transportation infrastructure in this part of Fairfax County, and laying the groundwork for high quality transit as we move to extent the Yellow Line south to Hybla Valley. U.S. 1 has not been widened in my lifetime between Lorton and Alexandria and this project, coupled with the $180 million federally-funded widening currently underway through Fort Belvoir, will help alleviate congestion, facilitate the redevelopment of our community, and help us finally adjust to the massive job and population gains occurring at Fort Belvoir since the last round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The funding of this project is a validation of strong community grassroots action and the hard work of our federal, state, and local officials to make U.S. 1 redevelopment a priority for Northern Virginia."House of Delegates Candidate Paul Krizek, a long-time Mount Vernon resident, went on to say, "This is very good news and just shows the power of the Mount Vernon-Lee community when it speaks with one strong voice. I am very proud of the almost 500 citizens that signed Del. Scott Surovell and my petition that we circulated, and the 130 citizens that came together at the NVTA hearing last month. Clearly our message was heard. I especially want to recognize our many community institutions and their leaders that testified in support of this important funding for Rt. 1, including from the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations and our Mount Vernon Transportation Commissioner, among many others."Lee District Supervisor Jeffrey McKay stated, “When we needed it most, you and your neighbors turned out in droves to support the widening of Route 1 and helped us secure some much-needed funding for the project. Together, we’ve secured a total of $10 million in investment from the NVTA for design, environmental work and possibly some land acquisition for this critical project. We’ve got great momentum going on Route 1 and this news certainly keeps it going.”Following the completion of the Ft. Belvoir $180 million road-widening project, this segment of the road would be the narrowest portion of the U.S. 1 Corridor in Fairfax County. This large bottleneck currently acts as a hindrance to economic development and a safety concern for emergency personnel.The project further implements the vision of the U.S. 1 Multimodal Study which recommended a widening of the road to six lanes in Fairfax County, Bus Rapid Transit from Huntington to Woodbridge and the extension of the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley in October 2014.Senator Adam Ebbin stated, “As a Senator representing Mt. Vernon, and as a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, I am proud to have voted to the overdue widening of Route 1. This will make a big difference in the long-term.”Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland added, “This is yet another significant step forward in the transformation of the Richmond Highway corridor. The community and elected officials from the Fairfax County Board and General Assembly worked together to achieve this vital investment in Mount Vernon’s future.”According to the NVTA, over 90% of the public comments they received on their two-year plan related to the U.S. 1 widening in Fairfax County as can be seen in the public comment summaries presented to the full NVTA Board. The NVTA Project Implementation Working Group Memorandum containing the public comment summaries can be found at: http://www.thenovaauthority.org/PDFs/Meetings/2015/4.23.15/VII%20%20Adoption%20of%20the%20FY2015-16%20Two%20Year%20Program.pdfBoth projects build on the momentum of the Route 1 Multimodal Study and implement the vision of a first-rate transit corridor. The U.S. 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis Study was passed by Senator Toddy Puller (D - Mt. Vernon) and Delegate Scott Surovell (D - Mt. Vernon) in 2012 and funded in 2013 with $2 million of state money. The Final Report for the U.S. 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis can be found at bit.ly/us1multimodalanalysisreport.
Weekly Column: Veto Session on Ethics, Voter ID, Government Surveillance
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of April 5, 2015.
Veto Session on Ethics, Voter ID, Government Surveillance
Last week, we returned to Richmond for the annual Reconvened or Veto Session where we considered about 20 vetoes and 60 Governor's amendments to various bills.
First, Governor McAuliffe signed the state budget we passed so there were no budget amendments to consider for the first time in my six sessions. However, that did not speed things up.
Governor McAuliffe vetoed several bills relating to firearm violence prevention. These included bills that would enhance Virginians ability to purchase machine guns and carry loaded shotguns in vehicles. I voted to sustain these vetoes and they were ultimately sustained by the Senate.
Governor McAuliffe also vetoed legislation to require Virginians to provide a copy of a photo identification when submitting an absentee ballot application. I fought this bill on the floor and it was amended due to some of the issues I raised — e.g. unfairness to veterans deployed in combat — but it still unduly burdened people without access to copy machines. His veto was sustained on that legislation as well.
The Governor also vetoed the "Tim Tebow" bill — or legislation that would allow homeschooled children to participate in public school sports upon approval of a policy by the Virginia High School League. I voted to sustain the Governor's veto. I do not see public school education as an a la carte service. I could easily see this policy spreading to band, art, or science competitions. Plus, homeschooled children do not live by the same grading or conduct policies as public school students and such a policy could not be fairly implemented. The Governor's veto was sustained.
We also had a lengthy debate about government surveillance. We passed legislation to limit the government's ability to passively gather personal information on Virginians outside of active criminal investigations or without search warrants.
The most famous examples of this are license plate readers — devices which capture the dates, times and places license plates are seen. They have been used in Virginia to track people entering and leaving Washington, D.C., but they could also be used to track attendance at political rallies, gun shows, churches, community meetings, or other activities.
There are other examples. The Fairfax County Police purchased a device called a "Stingray." These devices are the size of a suitcase and mimmick cell phone towers. After tricking a cell phone into locking in to the device, law enforcement can determine the cell phone identifier or every person present at a location, in a building, or even in a room. They have been used without warrants in criminal investigations in other jurisdictions.
The Governor proposed to amend this legislation to limit it to only restrict license plate readers and to allow the police to keep data up to 60 days. I did not support either amendment because I felt that they violated Virginian's privacy and that personal information should only be gathered by the government pursuant to warrants issued based upon probable cause after having been reviewed by a judge or magistrate. The Governor's Amendment restricted the legislation to license plate readers passed. The 60-day limitation failed.
Finally, we also debated several Governor's amendments to ethics reform legislation. We previously passed legislation limiting gifts to $100. However, the legislation lifted the aggregate cap on gifts allowing an elected official to accept multiple sub-$100 gifts per year. Governor McAuliffe proposed to create a $100 per year cap, require annual random "inspections" of forms filed, and providing staffing resources for the new Ethics Advisory Commission.
The Governor's $100 annual cap passed — which I supported — after some procedural gymnastics necessary to cure some drafting errors. But most of his other amendments unfortunately failed. We will continue to debate this next year. The reforms passed this year do not go far enough.
Quantico Creek Area Coal Ash Remediation to Move Forward
|Picture of coal ash on hand of Amy Adams from |
Appalachian Voices during Dan River Spill (NBC News)
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on the construction
, maintenance and remediation of coal ash ponds which are used at coal-fired power plants. This has consequences for the 36th District and communities along the Potomac River and other areas of the Commonwealth.
There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, Virginia
which is in the 36th District. Coal ash or fly ash is the end product of burning coal to create electricity. Decades ago, it was common practice to mix it with water and store it in ponds into a "slurry."
If ponds are not properly lined with impermeable barriers, then they can leach toxic metals into ground water and surface water. According to some sources
, depending on the coal used, they can leach toxic elements such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins and PAH compounds. Metals like this store in the fatty tissues of fish and can aggregate in fish consumers such as birds or humans. Modern practice is to store ash in dry landfills.
|Picture of Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, VA|
Courtesy of Dominion Resources
The Dominion ponds were built in the 1950's to these older standards and given that the plant was converted to natural gas and oil, the ponds are no longer active, but were capped off with dirt and are still on site. They are not being monitored but are currently leaching heavy metals into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River due to the construction methods used at the time.
The ponds recently came to light after Dominion disclosed them to the public following a spill of 50,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in February, 2014. After the disclosure, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed suit
in an effort to force Dominion to clean the ponds up.
On Wednesday, I had a meeting with several Dominion representatives about this problem and they advised me that once the rules were issued, they expected to begin remediation on these ponds in accordance with practices agreed upon with state and federal regulators, but they could not begin work until the EPA made remediation rules clear.
Yesterday, in response to the new rules, Dominion announced
that they are closing all coal ash ponds currently in use.
Water quality reports from the tidal Potomac River still show impairments of numerous metals and toxins such as PCB's and mercury. Eliminating the sources of these contaminants is a vital step in solving these problems.
Now that the rules are issued, I am pleased that Dominion will start making plans to remove this environmental hazard from our community, and I will continue to stay on top of this situation and push our state regulators as cleanup plans move forward.
Weekly Column: Transportation Funding Hearing Comes to Route 1
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of April 5, 2015.
Transportation Funding Hearing Comes to Route 1
Last week, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) held public hearings at the South County Government Center at the request of Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay and Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.
These deliberations include whether to help fund the $14 million estimate for the initial design and environmental analysis of widening U.S. 1 from Fort Belvoir to Napper Road near the Costco, including reserving space for bus rapid transit to Woodbridge and constructing a sidewalk and multi-use path along the entire length. It also includes about $60 million for widening U.S. 1 in Prince William County (Featherstone to Mary’s Way and Fraley Boulevard to VA-234).
First, here’s some background. Virginia’s transportation system suffered from a twenty-year funding shortfall, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) “borrowed” maintenance money (paving and bridge reconstruction) so there was something to spend on construction. This is why about 75% of the secondary roads in the 36th Senate District now require paving. In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation, now law, raising taxes to fund about 20% of our known long-term new construction needs. The bill had statewide and local components.
Statewide Funding Components
The statewide component repealed the $0.175 gas tax and replaced it with wholesale taxes equal to about a $0.10-0.12/gallon tax, and raised sales taxes on cars from 3% to 4.3%.
It also raised sales taxes by 0.3% and then diverted $700 million over five years from education, public safety, and higher education to the Transportation Trust Fund to help make up the lost $0.05/gallon. The bill also enacted a new $100 tax on Virginia’s hybrid vehicles which was repealed after I led the fight with Senator Adam Ebbin.
This plugged the statewide maintenance shortfall and funded new paving in the Northern part of the 36th District around Sherwood Hall Lane last year and is why many roads between Sherwood Hall and Collingwood Road will be paved this year.
Regional Funding Components
The bill also imposed three more taxes Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads only taxes – a 0.7% sales tax, a 3% hotel tax and a “regional congestion relief fee” of about $250 per $100,000 of home value. I voted against initial versions of this legislation for several reasons, including that it only funded one-fifth of our known needs, it relied on regressive sales taxes to fund roads instead of use taxes, and it also included partially unspecified formulas to make spending decisions, and voted for the bill on final passage with Governor McDonnell’s amendments.
The NVTA’s Process
The NVTA is required to make funding decisions based on two different formulas. One, which originated from a bill called HB599 that we passed in 2011, requires VDOT to focus its spending on projects that reduce congestion and improve homeland security. The second formula focuses on a number of variables, including economic development and project readiness.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the NVTA rated 36 projects. Under the HB599 formula, the widening of U.S. 1 near Fort Belvoir ranked eighth. However, under the NVTA’s 2020 performance measures, it dropped to #18, which was slightly under the cut for projects recommended for funding this year, while the two Prince William projects held their ground to merit recommendations for funding. The Public Hearing
Last week’s public hearing on U.S. 1 drew a larger crowd than the “main” NVTA hearing in central Fairfax County – over 130 citizens – and the message was loud and clear. Our community supports widening U.S. 1 and people has serious concerns about the formulas being used.
I also conducted a robopoll which held that 67% support widening U.S. 1; 13% oppose it. I also posted a petition along with Paul Krizek, candidate for the 44th House of Delegates District. Over 430 people signed on with comments demanding action.
Moving forward, I am working with local officials and state legislators, including Senator Adam Ebbin, who is on the NVTA Board, to work hard to get all of the U.S. 1 projects included in this round of funding.
We cannot wait any longer for the improvement of U.S. 1 and we are fighting hard to fund it now.
Annual Little Hunting Creek Cleanup April 11, 2015!
In 2007, Fairfax County named Little Hunting Creek "the trashiest creek in Fairfax County." Three years ago we started to do something about it.
Since the start of this annual clean up, our volunteers and I continue to work and improve the quality of our local watershed. This past year, the cleanup collected over 300 bags of trash, 17 shopping carts, carpets, a mini-car seat, a mannequin leg and a lawn chair in just 9 hours.
It is that time of the year again! I am once again teaming up with the Alison Ferguson Foundation and The Friends of Little Hunting Creek.
Del. Scott Surovell’s Annual
Little Hunting Creek Cleanup
Saturday, April 11, 2015
9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hybla Valley, VA Please join us at one of the following locations:
- LOCATION #1 Janna Lee Avenue Bridge: From Route 1, turn west on Buckman Rd, Right on Janna Lee Ave., to the bridge over little Hunting Creek
- LOCATION #2 Creekside Village Location: Take Janna Lee Avenue all the way through Creekside Village Apartments, until terminates at the end of the parking lot
- LOCATION #3 At Mount Vernon Shopping Plaza: Meet on Fordson Rd., beside the Duron Store at the northeast corner of Mount Vernon Plaza. Parking is available behind Shopper's Food Warehouse and the post office, or on Cyrene Drive in South Meadows Condos. DO NOT park in the limited parking in front of Duron and neighboring stores. Be sure to wear rubber boots- the easiest access is to walk in the channel.
For your safety, please wear closed toed shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots during the clean up. Additionally, we will provide light snacks throughout the day.
If you are interested in attending, please RSVP below so we can bring enough supplies for everyone.