Board Suspends Discussion on Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance

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On Tuesday, May 17th,  the Board of Supervisors voted to suspend discussions on the stream protection ordinance known as Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO). Jim Burton had previously signaled his intent to oppose the ordinance because he felt too many … Continue reading

So what IS the connection between my home and my water quality?

LCSC Ad Leesburg Today 8 April 2011

If you have seen our Ad in Leesburg Today, you may wonder ‘Exactly what IS the connection between what my family does at home, the quality of the water in county streams and the water we drink?’ and ‘Why should I show support for the draft Chesapeake Bay Ordinance?’  As far as you know, the tap water is fine with no reported problems. But there is more to the quality of your water than meets the eye and taste buds.

First consider that every drop of water you get from the tap has been on a long journey that began when it fell to the ground.  Once it hits the ground or an impermeable surface such as a roof top or driveway, rain water will go one of four places:  back into the air (evaporation); into the ground; along the top of the ground downhill to the nearest waterway or pond; or into gutters, storm drains or culverts and then to a stormwater pond or waterway such as a stream or river.

Next consider that water is an excellent solvent. It will pick up and carry both loose soil (sediment) and many chemicals such as the nitrogen and phosphorus compounds used in lawn and crop fertilizers.  When surface water flows into creeks and streams it often carries these and many other pollutants such as bacteria from pet waste and motor oil from parking lots and driveways.

‘So what has this to do with me?’ you ask.  The majority of families who get water piped into their homes are receiving water withdrawn from local reservoirs or the Potomac River which is filtered and treated before being pumped into the distribution system to your home.  And this water came from where?  The water draining from roofs, driveways and land to the west of your house.  Right now you may be thinking either ‘Yuck – I am drinking water from someone’s lawn!’ or ‘Wow – my water company is doing a great job cleaning up the water before it gets to me’ and you would be correct in both cases.

What can be done to keep sediment and chemicals out of the water flowing into the creeks and river and keep water in County streams and the Potomac River cleaner?

‘Streamside buffers’ are one answer.  Vegetated strips of land bordering waterways composed of trees, shrubs and grasses, with their miles of tiny roots hold soil in place, keep the ground permeable to water, and best of all, filter out pollutants of all kinds. These buffers work 24/7, need little maintenance, and have been shown to work very effectively at cleaning up water BEFORE it reaches streams and BEFORE it is taken out by water treatment plants.  Protecting streamside buffers is a major part of the draft Chesapeake Bay Planning Ordinance (CBPO) that is currently before the Board of Supervisors for review.  In spite of its title, the CBPO is first and foremost about cleaning up the water in Loudoun County streams and that is why the Stream Coalition wants your support for its approval.  It is also true that cleaner streams in Loudoun County will also help clean up the water in the Potomac River and thus the water in the Chesapeake Bay.

‘Stewardship’ means that we are willing to do what we can at home, work and school, and as a County to filter out these pollutants so we can tell our neighbors downstream, ‘the muck stops here in Loudoun.’   While we are concerned first and foremost with the health of county streams and the waters they carry, the productivity of the Bay is greatly diminished due to increased amounts of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus coming in large part from suburban lawns, agricultural operations, and unfiltered runoff. With lower levels of these pollutants the Bay has a better chance of generating the seafood, income and tax revenue that we used to depend upon in Virginia and other Bay states.

Will cleaner water in the streams keep water rates down for my family?

When you pay your water bill you pay for the delivery of treated water to your home and the cost of the treatment.  Dirtier water requires more time, chemicals, equipment and related costs to bring it up to water quality standards for drinking water.  Therefore the cleaner the water reaching the treatment plant the less costly it is to treat and the lower the water rates that you pay.

So in a nutshell:  Rain falls.  Rain flows to streams.  Streamside buffers help clean up pollution picked up by rainwater.  Cleaner water flows in streams to reservoirs and the Potomac River.  Cleaner water means less time and money to provide drinking water and water rates remain lower.  The Bay is cleaner, more productive and generates more tax revenue which benefits ALL citizens in Virginia.

We hope that this has helped you to understand how this issue affects you, your family, and in fact all of us here in Loudoun County.  We all have a stake in ensuring clean water.  We all drink the water and you can help keep it cleaner.

Please take a moment to read the posts on this website that explain:

  • The recent changes made to the draft ordinance that let affected homeowners build play areas and put tool sheds in their back yards without extra red tape, cost or permitting;
  • The facts of what the CBPO requires versus the misinformation and myths put forth by groups opposing the ordinance; and

LATEST! Summary of Draft Stream Protections

On Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, the Board of Supervisors finished reviewing the matrix of 40+ issues that were raised during public input and stakeholder discussions of the proposed stream protection called the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO).

The Board has been responsive to public sentiment in crafting stream protections that are Loudoun-specific and decided to:

  • Reduce the buffer width (RPA) to 75 ft on either side of the perennial streams indicated in green on the County’s draft map.
  • Adopt the grandfathering practice set by Fairfax County and also not require compliance that would require major changes in previously approved development plans.
  • Maintain equal protection for areas targeted for dense development  like Rt 28 and other development corridors.

In previous meetings the Board addressed several issues raised by the public to:

  • Eliminate the misunderstood county-wide Resource Management Area.
  • Approve amendments to the Erosion Control Ordinance to require sediment controls with 2500 sf of construction disturbance and 10,000 sf of construction-related disturbance for farm buildings.
  • Approve amendments to the Codified Ordinance to require 5 year pump-out of conventional systems, while keeping the existing requirement for documentation of yearly inspection/maintenance as needed for non-conventional systems.
  • Provide a 150 sq. ft. cumulative exemption for small structures like sheds or gazebos in the stream buffer area, and a 500 sq. ft. exemption for playsets.
  • Eliminate the misunderstood and confusing yellow map tool intended to help locate unidentified perennial streams.
  • Exempt residents from erosion control measures for septic tank lines and drainage field repair.
  • Remove buffers adjacent to all existing ponds.
  • Allow 2,500 sq. ft. or 5,000 sq. ft. of land disturbance/impervious area (based on the amount of a parcel covered by RPA), in the landward portion of the RPA by Administrative Waiver with adequate mitigation. Without mitigation, an RPA Exception would be required.
  • Allow existing structures (including businesses) located in the RPA, 2,500 sq. ft. of disturbance in the 50 feet closest to the stream with an Administrative Waiver including a minor water quality impact assessment (no consultant or engineer required).
After revisions to the draft ordinance language are complete, the Board of Supervisors has directed that landowners affected by the RPA will get notice letters.  According to the schedule proposed by staff, public notice of the proposed draft regulation will be advertised in the newspaper twice before the Board votes to adopt the draft.  Final action is tentatively planned for the second Board meeting in July.
Developing this ordinance is only one of many steps that the Board has taken to protect our streams.  The County also has plans to work with residents on a pilot watershed program which among other things could highlight voluntary measures homeowners could take to improve our streams.

Check out this program for D.C. residents to help achieve clean waters.

Let’s Stand Up and Speak Out for Clean Streams on Monday, May 2nd

The Loudoun Clean Streams Coalition will hold a rally at the Loudoun County Government Center on Monday, May 2nd, 2011 from 6:00 to 7:00pm and we invite you to add your voice and show your support for implementing the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) as a critical way to protect our streams.

As discussed in detail on this website, we believe that implementing the CBPO is an important step toward protecting water quality in county streams – water that ultimately is withdrawn from the Potomac River and Goose Creek to be used for drinking water in most homes in the eastern half of Loudoun County.  While we freely admit that the Riparian Buffers (streamside vegetated filter strips) protected by the CBPO will not solve all of the chemical and sediment pollution problems noted in county streams, they are already in place in many areas of the county, require little maintenance, work 24/7 to filter water BEFORE it enters the streams they abut, and are scientifically endorsed as very effective natural filters. Given the seriously compromised state of county streams and the already high levels of sediment and chemical pollutants in the Potomac, the CBPO makes not only good ecological sense but it will save many cents as well by saving the amount of time, money and effort needed by water treatment plants to bring river water to drinking water standards.

As the Board tailors the CBPO to fit Loudoun County, this is a chance for folks who take environmental health seriously to demonstrate our concern about the health and future of our streams.  Join us in encouraging the Board to finish its work quickly and adopt this protection

On May 2nd, we will gather outside the Government Center (inside in the event of rain) to encourage the Board to act, share other ways we can all help to protect and restore our streams, listen to some great music and have a little ice cream in honor of our passion for clean streams.

Lincoln-based singer/songwriter and former environmental engineer, Andrew McKnight, will raise our spirits and our aspirations with several songs that he has written about the health of streams and the role of water in our lives.  A passionate, caring and insightful defender of the environment for many years, Andrew will give special flair to this event and fill our heads and hearts with a good dose of ‘if you really care about something, then speak out.’  For a taste of what Andrew’s performance holds in store, swing by You Tube or his website and listen to ‘The Other Way’ which poses an interesting question with regard to polluted waterways.

We all drink from a common cup.  Some of the rain that fell on your yard and your neighbors’ yards this week will flow from someone’s tap before long. Or to re-spin the old phrase, ‘What goes to ground, comes around’.

So please join us on May 2nd and share an hour of your time to rally for cleaner water and a healthier environment.  Invite your friends to come too!

Board Votes to Eliminate Controversial “Yellow Map”

On Tuesday, February 15th,  the Board of Supervisors started working through a matrix of 42 issues to determine the final version of the proposed Loudoun stream protections known as the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO).  When the Board is finished, County staff will revise the draft based on the Board decisions and advertise it before the final decision to adopt.

In its first vote (9-0), the Board chose to eliminate the “yellow map,” the draft screening tool which was misconstrued by opponents to raise fear about the impacts on residents without a perennial stream nearby. Eliminating this widely misunderstood map takes away the fear of uncertainty that many who do not live by a perennial stream have had.  The Board action demonstrates a strong commitment to answering homeowner concerns.

In other good news, the Board voted to provide key exemptions for homeowners whose lots contain the 100 ft stream buffer area known as RPA.  These few homeowners (1,675 out of over 80,000 across the entire county) now have a cumulative exemption for up to 150 square feet of structures (e.g. sheds), located within the 100 ft buffer area.  In addition, Supervisors voted to exempt playsets up to 500 square feet in the RPA area, while clearly defining what constitutes a playset.  Fences are already exempt when constructed in the usual fashion with a space below the bottom edge. Continue reading

Joint Letter to Board of Supervisors

On February 1st, the Board of Supervisors will begin review of Loudoun’s proposed streamside protection ordinance, known as the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO).  Following the recent stakeholder process, some stakeholder representatives and members of the environmental community signed onto a letter that was submitted to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors regarding the outcome of the stakeholder process and recommendations for the environmental components of the Ordinance.  Along with  the letter, the groups submitted a matrix of issues and comments for additional consideration.

The Supervisors have asked for a variety of information from the staff as they begin their review.  A timeline for the process has not yet been announced.

Smart’s Mill Middle School students speak out for riparian buffers

Not only do students from Smart’s Mill Middle School in Loudoun understand watersheds and riparian buffers – they’re doing something with that knowledge.  Many students have sent letters to their supervisors, urging them to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CPBO) in Loudoun.  Jada Iraia and Ilian Burgos, eighth graders at Smart’s Mill, wanted to speak before the Board of Supervisors at the June 21 public input session, but the meeting conflicted with their final band concert at school.  Instead, with the help of one mom, they shot a video next to Tuscarora Creek, their neighborhood stream, urging the Board to adopt the CBPO.

As Ilian puts it, “we should strive hard to keep our environment clean and healthy so future generations can appreciate what we have.”

Supervisor Burton on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance

Given the amount of confusion and misinformation surrounding Loudoun’s proposed Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (CBPO), it is certainly refreshing to read well-cited, clear, concise information on the issue – like, for example, Supervisor Jim Burton’s recent letter to the public.  In his letter, Mr. Burton makes a straightforward case in favor of adopting the CBPO, all the while inviting feedback from readers and constituents.  While he does not go into the specifics of RPAs, RMAs, Locational Clearances, and non-conforming structures, he adds nuance to a discussion that, recently, has been anything but nuanced.  At the very least, he reminds us, it is “worth the effort not to pull the plug [on the CBPO] without some further exploration and deliberation.” Continue reading

Open Letter to Loudoun Conservation Groups

To whom it may concern,

Catoctin Creek Waterford Near Phillips Farm, courtesy of James Hanna

My name is Drew Moore and I write to you on behalf of Loudoun’s Clean Streams Coalition.  We’re an association of Loudoun citizens and citizen groups who are committed to saving and preserving Loudoun’s streams.  We feel that the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) – now under consideration in Loudoun – is a pragmatic legal safeguard against stream degradation, as it requires a 100′ riparian buffer surrounding all perennial streams in the county.  As you may know, riparian buffers have been shown time and time again to be a simple, effective means by which to protect waterways: the buffer acts as a sponge for silt, animal waste, and nutrients (principally nitrogen) and slows the flow of water from land to stream, helping to prevent water contamination, sedimentation, and bank erosion.

I am writing to ask if you would like to help our coalition of like-minded people as we educate Loudoun about the CBPA and encourage the Board to implement it.  In particular, we would like to 1) provide accurate, well-cited information concerning the CBPA and its potential effects in Loudoun, and 2) demonstrate county-wide support for the CBPA at the Sept. 20 public information session before the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.

Let’s work together to ensure safe, clean water in Loudoun – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.

Sincerely,

Drew Moore