Water Main Break
in Daniels Run

January 7, 2021 -
Neighbors along the Daniels Run tributary of Accotink Creek were alarmed by the sight of a heavy sediment discharge from a stormwater outfall channel. Word reached Friends of Accotink Creek the next day. Investigation showed heavy deposits of fresh mud in the channel and a layer of fresh sediment coating the streambed of Daniels Run downstream. The upstream streambed was free of excess sediment.

Since it had not rained, pumping from a construction site seemed the likely suspect. Exploration of the neighborhood draining to the outfall channel did not show any active source of sediment. There was, however, a fresh street pavement patch which proved to be a Fairfax Water water main repair.

It is rather disheartening that Fairfax Water, being in the very business of clean water, should contribute to stream pollution in this way. The Fairfax Water Active Leaks and Breaks page shows these incidents to be more frequent than one might expect. Their FAQ page confirms that water (and mud) are pumped out during repairs - "a pump helps to remove water from the excavated trench"

Our Field Report and Photos

Our letter to Fairfax Water expressed our concern:

Dear Fairfax Water,
Alarmed citizens alerted Friends of Accotink Creek to a heavy sediment discharge into the Daniels Run tributary on January 8th. Our observations the following day are attached. The apparent source is the repair work done on the Fairview Drive water main break.

Your Active Leaks and Breaks page seems to show that such incidents are a regular occurrence. Your FAQ page implies that mud is routinely disposed of in streams via storm drains, followed by chlorinated water. "a pump helps to remove water from the excavated trench" "When the repair is complete, crews open up a nearby hydrant to flush air and debris from the pipe"

We of course recognize the challenges involved in maintaining your system and providing safe drinking water to nearly 2 million citizens. Still, water quality is your business, and it is unfortunate whenever there is any negative contribution to stream health.

Questions:

  • Are measures put in place to prevent or minimize mud discharged into streams, or is this considered unavoidable?
  • Could pumps be directed through filter bags, as done at construction sites, to capture much of the sediment?
  • When such discharges occur is any remediation undertaken for the effect on stream health, either directly by Fairfax Water or by collaboration with local jurisdictions?
Accotink Creek, like so many of our local streams, is impaired by excess sediment that smothers aquatic life. Accotink Creek is the subject of a DEQ TMDL plan to reduce sediment pollution. Although only a small contribution of sediment derives from water main repairs, any reduction we can accomplish will be beneficial.

Sincerely,
::Friends of Accotink Creek::