High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes
I-495 Capital Beltway Expansion Project
Upstream from Lake Accotink
Documentation of Sediment Control Failures
September 21, 2009, Report

September 21, 2009

My response to Fluor's response to my report on 8/23/09. It took them over 3 weeks to respond with some generic pablum. The pictures referenced in my email were from this album - 082309 Photos - Sediment contol issues

Mr. Collins, I appreciate your response, and the effort made the day after that storm to correct problems. However, I don't feel that the general assurances about the careful and professional attention and paid to E&S issues match what I see at the sites that I've been visitting. To repeat myself,

"I would appreciate a detailed explanation of -the reasons for the failures documented in this album -the actions taken to repair the failures -a reevaluation of monitoring procedures for sites that have clearly been neglected.

I've asked for clarifications, explanations and followups before, but have never received much substantive response. I have no idea whether my pictures and comments from previous reports have been seriously evaluated, and I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the controls and procedures in place."

My requests for a substantial response were based on two concerns:

1. I wanted to make sure that the specific issues that I was bringing to your attention were actually valid concerns. As a layperson, I don't have your professional expertise in evaluating E&S issues, and I was hoping for some clarity on the specific issues I raised, so that my documentation could be more accurate and constructive.

It's counterproductive for all parties involved if I'm reporting issues that aren't actually issues. During our site visit a few months back, I initially received assurances that all possible care and attention was being paid to E&S issues, yet during the site walk, numerous failures and problems that had been overlooked by your team were found. To your credit, workers were immediately dispatched to correct those issues. My interpretation of that visit was that there was a disconnect between the claims of careful oversight, and the "facts on the ground". At the time, I hoped that might have resulted in more careful attention on your part.

I hoped for a substantial response to the concerns I raised in my initial e-mail, so that I would have a better understanding of which of the issues I raise are relevant concerns. Absent that information, it is hard for me to distinguish between genuine problems that have not been addressed, and require further reporting, and situations that already meet the required E&S standards.

2. I wanted to make sure that the specific issues that I described were correctly identified and evaluated by your team. I have gone to significant expense of time and effort to accurately document and report my concerns, but absent explicit confirmation from you that these issues have been addressed, I have no way of knowing whether you have correctly identified and evaluated the sites and issues that I've reported. Based on my experience with this project, it is hard for me to take on faith that all the issues that I report are correctly addressed.

An apparent case in point is one site that I reported in the initial email. There may be a good explanation for why this site had been neglected, and even for why it has not been addressed since. Maybe it's not your responsibility. Quoting from my initial e-mail,

"The most egregious failure documented here is of a site that has been failing for months - I have reported sediment flows at the bridge adjacent to Americana Park repeatedly, going back to last year - obvious sediment flows after each rain. Workers scraped the sediment off the trail, in preparation for a media event in July, so it's clear that VDOT/Fluor were aware of this issue. On Sunday I traced the sediment back to a stormwater pond that is seriously dysfunctional, despite a recent installation of gravel check dams. There is a 3 foot deep eroded gully, that has clearly not been attended to for a long time. The E&S controls protecting the culvert are not functional, and given the accumulation of sediment, have also been seriously neglected...

Stormwater pond in SW quadrant of 236 interchange -There is a 3 foot deep erosion gully, which is weeks, if not months old. This site is a few hundred feet from a field office - how can there be such poor monitoring? -The outflow is inadequately protected, and has not been adequately monitored. Even a slight rain event will result in significant sediment release into Accotink Creek. -Adequate seeding and spreading hay would have minimized the sediment release. That has not been done."

Pictures of the site were included in my report. I made my description as specific as possible. The caption for one of the pictures that I included in the report was "Enormous erosion gully, likely months old in background. Eroded sediment is draining through culvert in foreground". I recommend that you revisit the link: 082309 Photos - erosion gully

I revisited the site on Sept 17th, and found no noticeable changes. I have no idea whether this site is part of your responsibility, whether you've been inspecting it, whether the failures I documented are actually issues. The only reason that there are no noticeable changes because there has been no significant rainfall since my initial visit. Otherwise, there would have been significant further erosion and degradation of this site.

To repeat myself, this is a site that is a few hundred feet from one of your field offices. I can't imagine that the problems here are actually indicative of a commitment to responsible and professional E&S control and oversight. It's possible that the problems here could be missed during a drive-by, but a cursory inspection on foot would immediately recognize them. It's possible that this site isn't your responsibility. If so, please put me in contact with the responsible parties. Otherwise the only possible interpretation that I can make is that you
-neglected to review the pictures included in this report.
-neglected to read my e-mail.
-are not doing adequate E&S inspections

This would of course be fundamentally contradictory to your reassurances that you have paid careful attention to my report. As well as your reassurances that you make that you have a careful and responsible inspection protocol in place.

I hope that you can disabuse me of my current interpretation. If not, I would appreciate a clear and specific description of the issues that you have found at this site, a description of the corrective measures taken, and an explanation for why this occurred.

This was one site, of several that I visited and documented at the time (almost a month ago). During my visit on September 17th, I found some sites that had been stabilized, and several others where the issues I raised previously were not addressed, or had worsened. This is in the absence of any significant rainfall. I understand that E&S issues are complex. I am not convinced as to their subjectivity. There is an objective reality - the laws and requirements in place, the skills and commitment of the responsible parties, and the Accotink Creek watershed, which bears the brunt of any mistakes or failures.

I hope that we can have more specific conversations about these issues in the future. The specific site addressed in this e-mail is one of numerous concerns that I feel have not been adequately addressed. I will be posting another report on my recent visit in the next day or two. Absent specific communication from you as to which of my concerns are valid, it is impossible for me to distinguish between issues that you have failed to address, and invalid concerns on my part.

Kris Unger

On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 11:34 AM, Christopher Collins wrote:

Mr. Unger, in response to your email of August 25 about sediment control issues, the HOT Lanes Project Team offers the following response:

Fluor-Lane appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens such as Kris Unger assisting the Capital Beltway HOT Lanes project to ensure the projects E&S controls are working properly. As required by VDOT, Fluor-Lane has installed and maintained a robust system of over 20 miles of erosion and sediment control measures.

These controls include silt fences, sediment traps, inlet/outlet protections, pumping operations, rock check dams at natural and manmade ditches, re-seeding of cleared areas, and installation of riprap to stabilize embankments.

In response to the recent report by Mr. Unger about some E&S concerns near the Little River Turnpike Interchange at I-495, we again restate that our E&S controls are working and repairs are made after rain events to ensure adequate protections are in place.

After every significant rain event, we dispatch our project engineers to determine where any additional maintenance might be required as a result of the storm. This is precisely what occurred following the heavy rainfall on August 22 (0.8 in 20 minutes). Fluor-Lane employees were on the scene that day to make necessary repairs and assess the current controls . Seventy-four man hours were spent that day to monitor and repair the E&S controls.

We have taken care of the specific problems that Mr. Unger cited in his report. Again, we will continue to monitor our controls and keep them up to and beyond VDOT requirements.

Additionally, Fluor-Lane has engaged an outside environmental consultant, Wetland Studies & Solutions Inc., to assist us in monitoring the effectiveness of our erosion and sediment controls. We have launched a new Field Environmental Action Team (FEAT)

for increased environmental inspections and direct focus of ensuring environmental compliance and protection are working.

It should be noted that the design and implementation of E&S controls is an inherently subjective exercise. Differences of opinion will always arise among different parties assessing the situation. Our environmental consultant team includes some of the most skilled leaders in this field, with decades of proven experience. We will continue to rely on their knowledge and experience to ensure the necessary protections are in place.

Christopher Collins

Contact the investigator, Kris Unger E-mail.

Contact Friends of Accotink Creek, E-mail.

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