Heating Oil Spill

April 7, 2021:
Here we go again? Neighbors again reported water in Accotink Creek discolored blue and orange at the same spot the earlier oil spill had first been observed. Again the Fire Marshal responded, but this time without conclusive results. Clearly, the pictures show something is abnormal, but the Fire Marshal investigation (the next day) failed to determine the cause.

Fire Marshal's response:
"Today, April 8, 2021, Code Administration staff investigated the Accotink Creek from the eastern side of the City to the area of Rust Hill. The findings of their investigation are below.

  • The creek did not display obvious evidence of illicit discharge or hazardous materials.
  • Several areas of the creek were checked using point/source testing for hazardous substances and water classification: PH determination (acid/base), petroleum/organic solvent, hydrogen sulfide, nitrite, nitrate, fluoride, oxidizer, iodine/bromine/chlorine, and hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, motor oil, etc.).
  • None of the testing produced positive results and the results were consistent with a normal surface waterway.
  • Staff concludes that there was no illicit discharge or hazardous materials released or present in the stream at the time of their investigation."

Accotink Creek near Van Dyck Park - this is not normal.

January 6, 2021:
Alert neighbors in the Country Club Hills neighborhood of Fairfax City reported an oily sheen, chemical odor, and discolored water in Accotink Creek. Fairfax City Fire Marshal responded. The marshals determined fuel oil contamination was coming from a storm drain outfall just downstream from Chain Bridge Road. The marshals deployed a boom to block further contamination of the creek. The search for the source back through the network of storm drains revealed a leaking heating fuel tank. Remediation and penalty details may become available later. Neighbors, be alert for signs of fish and aquatic wildlife die-off. [Marshal's Incident report E210061350, DEQ Incident Report207927]

The main source of the discoloration was further upstream, at the Paul VI construction site, where sediment-laden water was being discharged from filter bags - an issue not sufficient to interest enforcement agencies. These filter bags function to reduce, but not eliminate, the sediment reaching streams from bare soil construction runoff. Even this lower amount of sediment adds up, coating the streambed and smothering much of the life that forms the base of the aquatic food chain.

Ghostly shadows of oil sheen flowing past Van Dyck Park

Contamination boom contains the spill, awaiting pumpout

Upstream from the heating fuel, the water is still discolored by construction sediment

Paul VI construction site outfalls

Paul VI construction site filter bag removes some sediment, but much still reaches the creek.