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

Latest Shocking Video - HOT lanes construction runoff along Accotink Creek

Sediment Control Failures along 495/HOT project:

VDOT and its contractor, Fluor-Transurban, have not been satisfied with the injury done to Accotink Creek by removal of the wooded buffer along the Capital Beltway (I-495) for their HOT Lanes project without mitigation, but have also filled the creek with the mud and sediment churned up by construction.

After more than two years of reporting failures, sediment control is still poor, with the stream and aquatic life suffering. Also, the taxpayers will be getting a multi-million dollar bill in a few years when Lake Accotink has to be dredged again; the cost passed along to the taxpayers for ineffective construction company sediment controls.

The Virginia Attorney General has entered a consent decree (press release) covering construction sediment violations by the HOT Lanes construction contractor, Fluor-Lane. This action was designed to preempt the Potomac Riverkeeper's intent to file suit against Fluor-Lane under the Clean Water Act. It's effect is to shield Fluor-Lane from meaningful penalties for the consequences of their actions, allowing "business as usual" to continue.

No Crying Allowed!!
Spotted along 495 - A taunting message to Accotink Creek from the HOT Lanes project?

And the deserved retort!!
Yes, all of us saw what the HOT project did to Accotink Creek.

The ongoing saga of documented sediment control shortcomings along the 495/HOT Lanes project:

113010 Photos - Tale of two days.

112410 Photos - Wipe your feet.

111710 Photos - Slogging on.

111010 Photos - Good gully, Miss Molly!.

102710 Photos - Silt fence down!

101610 Photos - What's running into Flag Run?

101310 Photos - Big muddy.

100610 Photos - Fall folly.

071410 Photos - I saw what you did there.

063010 Photos - Summertime blues.

061610 Photos - Streams of trouble.

060910 Photos - Silt tilt.

060210 Photos - Sedimental journey.

053110 Photos - ...May mud.

042710 Photos - April showers bring...

033010 Photos - Muddy waters.
033010 Photos - more Muddy waters.

020410 Photos - Winter of discontent.

012310 Photos - Signs of trouble.

012210 Photos - Trees out, mud in!

122809 Photos - Muddy Christmas to all!

121309 Photos - Sediment problems persist.

121109 Photos - The mud just keeps flowing.

120909 Photos - Sediment problems go on.

120409 Photos - Continued problems. More 120409 Photos.

111909 Photos - Accotink Creek suffers on.

101509 Photos - Enduring issues.

100209 Report & Photos - Continued problems.

092709 Report & Photos - And it goes on and on.

092109 Fluor-Transurban responds.

082309 Report & Photos - And it continues.

081109 Report & Photos - Coons Branch sediment pumping

072709 Photos - Issues from site walk with Potomac Riverkeeper July 27th

072309 Photos - Sediment flow into Accotink Creek during rain event

061809 Photos- Sediment Control Failures along Accotink Creek
061809 Photos - Sediment Control Failures on Accotink section of Cross County Trail

060909 Photos - Inadequate or Non-existent repairs to previously reported sites

060509 Photos - Sediment Control Failures along the 495/HOT project, reported several times previously

092808 Photos - Documentation of sediment control failures at the 495/HOT construction

090708 Photos - Sediment failures and impact on Accotink Creek, after hurricane Hannah.

083108 Photos - Failed/inadequate sediment control structures at HOT-495 construction site.

Video - HOT lanes construction runoff along Accotink Creek

Kris Unger has documented the shortcomings he has witnessed and shares them:

I believe that there are similar failures throughout this project, and call for a serious reevaluation of the procedures and oversight in place.

The failures documented include:
-Failed and collapsed silt fences, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Overwhelmed and overtopped collection pools, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Poorly installed sediment control features that are bypassed by storm event flows, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Sagging, bulging, or punctured silt fences, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Consistently unrepaired sediment control structures, that are allowed to fail, or allowed to continue failing, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Inadequately repaired sediment control structures, that will clearly fail in the next significant rain event, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.
-Failed sediment control structures deliberately repaired in order to create the appearance of adequate sediment control, that fail in the next significant rain event, allowing sediment to flow into tributaries of Accotink Creek.

The timeline for documented sediment control failures at these sites goes back to August of 2008 -

It would be possible to interpret from this timeline that these were the specific instances when sediment control failures had occurred, but that would be incorrect. This timeline indicates those occasions when I visited these sites, in posession of a camera. Consistently, unfailingly, every time I visited these sites, I witnessed sediment control failures.

On occasion, there were signs that some attempt at repair had been initiated. Those repairs consistently failed after the next significant rain event. This is what I've documented since August 2008. I fully believe that responsible initial design, or adequate restoration at any point in this process, would have resulted in fewer to no subsequent sediment control failures. I also believe that adequate initial designs or subsequent repairs would only have incurred trivial additional costs. I have no understanding of why these sites have consistently been allowed to fail, in such dramatic ways.

Accotink Creek and Accotink watershed has been treated as a dumping grounds, an externality. The responsible parties have not shown adequate care or consideration for the consequences of their actions. Absent these documentary pictures and videos, I believe there would be no serious discussion of the resultant degradation, pollution, and contamination of Accotink Creek. Even given this documentation, the consideration granted has not been adequate to resolve the issue.

Had I known that I would be reporting the same types of failures, for the same issues, this many months later, I would have been much more aggressive at the beginning of this project. I have witnessed and documented tons of sediment being washed from the 495/HOT construction site at 2 specific tributaries, into Accotink Creek. This is no exaggeration: tons of sediment. This is subsequent to reassurances by VDOT that no sediment would enter Accotink Creek from this project. This is despite reassurances that Fluor/Transurban are committed and competent, environmentally responsible companies.

It's entirely possible that the responsible parties are following the letter of the law, on this project, and are acting in good faith. I find that hard to believe, given the paucity of oversight, and the numerous violations and failures that I document on each visit. If so, the operative standards are completely inadequate.

Were Fluor/Transurban/VDOT to ask me what could be done to minimize the amount of sediment being washed from the construction sites into Accotink Creek, my answer now would be the same as it would have been in August 2008, when this discusssion started. Super silt fences, which are reinforced by chain link fencing. Regular silt fences have consistently failed, and consistently been reinstalled, in order to fail again.

Super silt fences, when responsibly installed, are much more likely to resist the flows and floods that this area consistently experiences. This is not to say that super silt fences are the default answer to the issue, but this does indicate a consistent failure to implement solutions that are apparent to amateurs and laypeople. There are a number of effective and innovative sediment control techniques available, that should also be considered and implemented.

I recommmend that the responsible parties contact the environmental consultants for the ICC highway project, in Maryland, who have clearly demonstrated the possibility of adequate sediment control structures, as well as a *real* commitment to environmentalism. On my first visit to an ICC construction site, I realized to my profound outrage, how shoddy the work on the 495/HOT project was, in comparison, and how indifferent those Virginia parties were to environmental concerns.

It's ridiculous that I am documenting the same types of failures now, that I did 9 months ago. I will continue doing so until the situation changes. I appreciate the care and attention given to this issue by a number of individuals and government officials and departments, and am reassured that they are doing their work competently and commitedly. However, after numerous reports and meetings, that have only resulted in the same types of failures at this site, I do not have confidence in the ability of Fluor and VDOT to manage these sites.

For those who want to pass on this information, please copy me on your forwards E-mail. I'm building a mailing list of interested people for this conversation.

Here's a link to the approximate location: Map

This is a site that has been reported several times previously. Based on the failures of the repeated repair attempts, I don't feel that the current techniques being used are adequate, and recommend that more robust sediment control structures be put in place. I'm very concerned that such a sensitive site, adjacent to a stream valley and a healthy forest, which has been reported several times previously, has not received adequate attention.

The contrast between this site, and sediment control structures in place along the ICC (Intercounty Connector), in Montgomery County, are dramatic: ICC Photos

In the ICC photos, areas adjacent to streams were protected by 2 layers of reinforced silt fences, and exposed slopes showed none of the collapses and erosion that I have witnessed repeatedly along the 495/HOT footprint. Nor did I see any sediment control failures at this site. It's clearly "possible" to do construction projects of this magnitude without negatively affecting adjacent watersheds on the scale that the 495/HOT project has.

Contact the investigator, Kris Unger E-mail.

Contact Friends of Accotink Creek, E-mail.