Limousine liberalism in Alexandria, Va

Stinking to high heaven.

  The City of Alexandria spews an astonishing 11 million gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River every year.  The overflows happen just about every time it rains.  This is the result of a combined sewer system that is designed to collect sewage and runoff in a single system.  When it rains, the runoff spikes and Alexandria’s treatment plant can’t handle the volume.  The excess of mixed runoff and sewage is intentionally overflowed into the Potomac River in four separate dumping locations.  This has been happening for 100 years.

Raising procrastination to an art form.  Many U.S. cities have combined sewer overflow (CSO) problems.  The environmental damage is well understood and the approach to solving the problem is well understood.  You basically build a great big underground holding tank to catch the excess sewage and runoff until the treatment plant can catch up to demand. Washington, D.C., Richmond and Lynchburg join Alexandria in needing to deal with their CSO problem.  The difference between Alexandria and the other three cities is that the other cities are well along in solving the problem while the well-heeled progressives in Alexandria were content to spew human waste into the Chesapeake Bay watershed without any more than a pretense of a plan to remedy the situation.  However, in a stunning stroke of clarity, the Virginia General Assembly changed all that.  They boxed Alexandria’s ears leaving the snowflakes in that city’s government with an epic case of tinnitus.

Our glorious General Assembly.  During the 2017 session the Virginia General Assembly essentially told Alexandria that “enough was enough.”  The legislature passed bills setting a fast-paced schedule for Alexandria to fix its disgusting sewer system.  The city has eight years to attend to a problem that should have been addressed a decade ago.  The Mayor and City Council members of Alexandria cried like babies after being told they needed to stop dumping raw sewage into the river.  Alexandria has a median household income of $89,200 and can afford an “Office for Women” along with hybrid buses that cost $750,000 apiece (twice the cost of a normal diesel bus and they idle all the time anyway).  However, they can’t fund a fix to dumping raw sewage?

Odd bedfellows. The Alexandria sewage affair made for some odd bedfellows.  Progressive Democratic state Senator Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, launched a Twitter offensive against his lefty pals in Alexandria over the matter.  Of course Surovell represents the district immediately downriver from Alexandria!  Conservative Republican state senator Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, patroned the initial legislation, which was much more draconian than what was ultimately passed.  Stuart also represents a district downriver from Alexandria.  Support for the bill in both the House and Senate came primarily from Republicans while opposition was primarily from Democrats. Governor McAuliffe tried to elongate Alexandria’s schedule but was rebuffed by the General Assembly and ultimately signed the strict bill.

Update. After insisting that the city needed five years to study the matter Alexandria’s plan was written and approved within a year. After insisting that the eight-year schedule was an engineering impossibility the city now says the schedule is doable. Funny what happens when liberals are forced to do the things they insist everybody else must do.

Warning. Before any of you wizards in the peanut gallery start carping about my anti-liberal bias … remember this post.  I am anti-two-faced politicians who espouse a political philosophy like property rights or environmentalism but then backtrack on their supposed beliefs when it comes time to act.

Hero award: Scott Surovell.

— Don Rippert

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22 responses to “Limousine liberalism in Alexandria, Va”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think DJ is right to give Arlington a rash about this but I think the logic about our Conservative General Assembly making Arlington clean up is fairly amusing as Conservatives in the Va General Assembly as well as Congress hate the EPA – which is the entity which has pushed the States and the Cities to deal with the CSO problem.

    Sure, you can rightly blame the liberals for piously saying they want Clean Water then vacillate when the costs come home to them.. but make no mistake about most Conservatives… they’d gladly neuter the EPA like nobody’s business ALA Dominion/SCC style!

    Conservatives want the “I want a Clean Bay” sticker on their lapel… and when it comes to hammering Arlington – they’re on board but how about those Poultry factory farms upstream of Washington on the Potomac or those hog farms on other Virginia streams?

    Every major watershed in Virginia has polluted tributaries and main stems and yet, we’d not even know which ones and the level of pollution if it were not for the EPA requiring Virginia to show those streams.

    Right now today – DEQ in Virginia is warning that some streams have “unacceptable” levels of E-coli. But they don’t even publish maps of the segments that have the e-coli dangers… Nope… and worse than that – when you ask DEQ why some streams have high E-coli levels, the answer is that wild animals are pooping in the streams…

    I kid you not. Nevermind that most streams don’t have these issues.. but the ones that do -it’s because of wild animals pooping…

    Now.. does anyone think that Conservatives in the GA and Congress will act to require DEQ find out the sources of the e-coli in the rivers?

    Would those pesky liberals do it?

    Well.. if I had to put money on it – I’d bet the Liberals would do something before the Conservatives would.

    So finally – what cities have CSO problems in Virginia besides Arlington? Do we know? Did the Va GA name all of them and require all of them to do something or was it just those limousine liberals in Arlington?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      First of all Larry … Alexandria not Arlington. Love ’em or hate ’em Arlingtonians tend to live by the liberal standards they set for themselves and others.

      Alexandria even had 90+% of its sewer system set up properly with separate facilities for sewage vs runoff. It was the oldest part of Alexandria (around Old Town) that still had the CSO issues. That’s also the wealthiest part of Alexandria with the highest home values (averaging $850,000 per home I have been told). You’d think that filthy rich liberals could muster the resolve to stop dumping raw sewage into rivers wouldn’t you? This problem has been hotly debated for decades. Alexandria just wan’t interested in addressing the matter.

      800 cities across America have CSO issues. When they overflow sewage into rivers they are all in violation of the law. Courts have ordered them to address the matter and the vast majority of them have done just that. As far as I know only Alexandria, Richmond and Lynchburg still operate CSO in Virginia. Lynchburg has done a good job of addressing the matter, Richmond is progressing in their usual half-assed way but they are progressing and you know the story of Alexandria.

      Here is a good article …

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Warning. Before any of you wizards in the peanut gallery start carping about my anti-liberal bias … remember this post. I am anti-two-faced politicians who espouse a political philosophy like property rights or environmentalism but then backtrack on their supposed beliefs when it comes time to act.”

    Well… if the Va GA wants to get serious about CSOs – let’s do it for all cities with CSO problems in Va , not just the one with “liberals” in charge but also those other cities, in fact, ANY city REGARDLESS of the political leanings of those who govern.

    In addition – take a look at a LOT of other rivers in Va, especially those that are impacted by outflows from large poultry operations – again – without regard to the political affiliations of the local governance.

    Finally – folks may be interested in the fact that MANY of the rivers in Virginia have “human-based sewage” issues – i.e. they have organisms such as Fecal Coliform and Escherichia coli – which is the same thing that is the issue with CSOs.

    So…. I’m in agreement with DJ except I think there are way more localities than just Arlington that have issues that should be addressed and the Va GA is “selective” about who they are targeting for attention.

    Let’s not only hold Arlington accountable but all other places that have similar issues that should also be addressed.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Poultry waste is a big problem but at least it’s usually dispersed a bit. Human waste from a city is very concentrated. My issue with Goodlatte was very much targeted at agricultural waste. I think it’s a disgrace that Goodlatte claims to be a big defender of private property rights while allowing a small number of BigAg companies to badly pollute the property of others. I am personal very happy tp see Goodlatte retire.

    2. Sara E. Carter Avatar
      Sara E. Carter

      I have worked very closely with Erosion and Sediment Control, Stormwater, and Poultry Management plans related to large poultry houses. I can’t figure out what major source of runoff they would be creating in any of our rivers. Can you expand on this? These are highly regulated projects during construction, and continue to be regulated upon use. Is there something I am missing?

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        That is very reassuring to know.

        I assume you are speaking of Virginia rivers and streams alone. True?

      2. djrippert Avatar

        DEQ discovered poultry operators on Virginia’s Eastern Shore polluting the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They have been issued runoff permits and their discharges are being monitored. All of this in 2018.

      3. djrippert Avatar

        I’d also point out that chicken manure is sold to farmers to use as fertilizer. The runoff from the fields using the chicken manure contains high amounts of ammonia which is a big problem. Unsurprisingly, Jim Purdue doesn’t think this is a big issue and presumes that oysters will save the day. That’s somewhere between wishful thinking and outright lying. The bay’s oyster population is something like 1% of what it was in colonial times. There aren’t a whole lot of oysters to filter the water. It’s improving but slowly. More importantly, it wouldn’t matter if there were a lot of oysters because they don’t filter ammonia worth a darn.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            I spent several days wandering the back roads of Virginia’s eastern Shore, Accomack and Northhampton Counties, and fell in love with the places there off the main road, Rt. 13.

            These “back roads – the historic towns, villages, farms, fisheries, marshes. back bays and estuaries, are irreplaceable national treasures. Yet they don’t get all the protection and respect they deserve. Ways must be found to better and more throughly preserve and to enhance and re-energize these incredible places.

            It did notice from the road these newly built poultry operations. Driving by them, it occurred to me that more needed to be done in terms of how these places were sited, built and maintained. As built, they severely detract from the magic of the locale. Remedies are easy to find and deploy to remove the visual blights. But, as usual Virginia has a way of trashing up its own nest. It is a cultural problem.

            A cultural problem, that’s also true in spades for the trashy strip of a road called Rt 13 that traverses the peninsula from top to bottom.

            That road in a crime, a horrible embarrassment, through one of the most beautiful, historically significant, environmentally important, coastal landscapes on the planet, unlike any other anywhere.

  3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I have long thought that there was something in the water in and around Alexandria, Virginia. People there act peculiar. Now I know the problem. Hopefully now, once Alexandria’s water is cleaned up, political sanity will return to those who live there.

    Who knows, we might even get George Washington’s plaque back into the his local Episcopal Church, the place he sat in his pew there.

    Thanks, Don.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I grew up in Alexandria although (technically) I was a few miles south of the City line on Huntington Ave in Fairfax County. Alexandria is an odd place. Despite the Remember the Titans hoax Alexandria was the last place in NoVa to integrate the schools. I remember going into an Alexandria bar in 1977 and being told by the bartender not to talk to any African-Americans who happened to come into that bar. I was stunned. 1977? I left and never returned.

      Now the place is super-liberal but they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to stop dumping raw sewage into the Potomac River.

      I get the distinct sense that the political class of Alexandria consider themselves an entitled and privileged elite … long on telling others how to live their lives but short on willingness to set an example.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Yes, I agree. It is a stuffy, in-bred claustrophobic place whose snooty attitudes have been going on since George Washington’s time, even before. Episcopal High School, calling itself THE HIGH SCHOOL, use to set the standard for much of the last century. And, although the cast has changed entirely over the last 40 years from rabid elitist southern conservative bigot to rabid elitist progressive bigot, the deep underlying prejudices and closed minded stuffy attitudes between the two poles, right and left, are today remarkable the same.

        Indeed,those twin poles have now merged. One is as bad as the other, for the simple reason that each pole t0day mirrors and reflects the other exactly.


        It’s been so bad for so long, that Arlington County had to break away in the 19th century, a fact the county had to later again affirm and ratify in the early part of the 20th century, around 1920 or so, changing its name to Arlington to avoid the taint of the name Alexandria.

  4. I’m confused? So why did the “liberal hell holes” of Richmond and DC deal with their problems? I mean, I’ll check my eighth grade civics text book, but I don’t even think DC even answers to the state government in Richmond. They just did it, collectively.

    Maybe, just maybe, it is a case of a city not prioritizing an issue (an important one to be sure) and then being held accountable by a higher elected body. Sometimes local authorities should be over ridden or supervised. Which is of course the antithesis of the pre Trump beliefs of the conservative party.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      You got it. DC, Richmond and (to some extent) Lynchburg acted on their liberal inclinations by funding the projects required to solve their CSO problem. Alexandria, easily the wealthiest of those jurisdictions, dragged their feet for decades, tried to weasel out of the fix and then made up stories about the impossibility of getting it done. A year later, all of their supposed objections about the engineering impossibility of meeting the eight year schedule have fallen by the wayside. For once, liberals like Surovell and conservatives like Stuart brought a recalcitrant jurisdiction to heel.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      As far as the pre Trump beliefs of the conservative party … I’m afraid you have that one completely wrong, at least in Virginia. Virginia has a long (and sad) history of being run by conservatives whether they be old school southern Democrats in the 50s, 60s and 70s or new school conservative Republicans in the 80s, 90s and through today. Throughout that history Virginia has been a staunch Dillon Rule state where state government overwhelms local government. Home rule states (the opposite of Dillon Rule states) tend to be found in liberal leaning New England where localities have a lot of power.

      By and large I’d like to see Virginia move from a Dillon’s Rule philosophy to a home rule philosophy. There is just not enough commonality between … say … Arlington and Wise County to justify a single governmental body making virtually all the decisions. However, in this case, I have to admit that the Dillon’s Rule approach came to the right answer whereas the home rule approach was failing.

      1. I agree with your take on “old” conservative politics in Virginia and even nationality. As much as George Allen, Jim Gilmore, and Newt Gingrich (and their ilk) repeatedly said the answers to all of our problems start in your cul de sac, in reality it was an excuse to cut away what they didn’t agree with, while silently forcing what they believed in from the top down. At least “new” liberals are up front about being the opposite.

        As for the Dillon Rule, I also agree it’s asinie that our state pits what is essentially one overlapping jurisdiction against another, causing duplications of essential services. But god help Jim if it’s repealed. Because if and when it is, we here in the Soviet Socialist State of Charlottesville might do something outrageous like raise the minimum wage. But at some point like you said, the gulf between Bath Co and Fairfax Co is going to force the issue.

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Fairfax County officials told the McLean Citizens Association about this problem in Alexandria several years ago. The County is interested because it uses some of the capacity to serve Fairfax residents. Fairfax County is liable for its share of the remediation costs. I got the impression Alexandria was in no hurry whatsoever to fix the problem.

    Kudos to Surovell and Stuart. And of course, the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda has largely been silent. Just like sexual assault is tolerable when Bill Clinton does it, so to is raw sewerage when it comes from a Democratic Party-controlled locality. Contrast it to all the press the Rag gave to Loudoun County when it had an all GOP BoS. That went away once some Ds were elected in 2017.

    It’s awfully hard to like Trump but the existence of the MSM makes it easier every day.

  6. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    Quoting liberally from a report on the wastewater issue from an Oregon Public Broadcasting article … to show this is also a national problem.

    “One of the main goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act was to stop “point-source pollution.” That’s the sewage and industrial waste pumped out of pipes and into the nation’s waterways. Today most water bodies don’t qualify as clean … State and federal records show that Washington’s 223 cities racked up more than 1,500 pollution discharge violations in the past two years. Idaho’s 124 cities tallied more than 1,700 in the past three years. Lots of problems with VA waters.

    “To help communities build and upgrade wastewater collection and treatment systems in the years after the Clean Water Act’s passage, the federal government handed out billions of dollars in grants. But most of those federal grants are gone, replaced by loans. In 2012, the federal government gave states $1.5 billion to use in their loan programs … The interest rate is 2.5 percent.

    “In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the gap between future needs and current spending on wastewater infrastructure of $150 billion to $400 billion for the entire country. The same year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a “D-“ for its wastewater infrastructure.”

    So it’s mostly about the money … however, one of the main issues that I remember from my time on the Inland Wetlands Commission in CT, and that you mention, is CSO. Early sewer treatment plants piped sewage and rainwater together … to wherever they were discharged. Many early sewage treatments did not separate the 2 and now problems occur when there is an overflow caused by storms. DJ says Alexandria did most of that separating, just needs to finish the job.

    Who needs to make the fix? Certainly Alexandria could bite the bullet but where has the state been and the EPA? The CW Act put the states in charge of enforcement only to be overridden by the EPA when and if the states’ DEQs do not do their job. As Larry said … lots of fault to go around.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      One of Alexandria’s complaints is that the state helped Lynchburg and Richmond with some money for the CSO remediation. While a valid point, some said that Alexandria in general and the are of Alexandria with the CSO problem in particular was one of the wealthiest areas in the state. Therefore, Old Town should foot the bill to clean up its own mess. I’d rather see some consistency and think the state should help all localities clean up these problems.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Why don’t we shift some of the money we spend on climate change study after climate change study to go into fixing our sanitary sewer systems? How many professors do we need to fund? How many grants do we need?

      Government fails over and over to do the basics correctly but seeks to tackle more and more issues. If a nation cannot stop dumping raw **** into its rivers, why would we think it could reverse climate change?

      As I understand the facts, much of Alexandria’s sewer system is a combined storm water and sanitary sewer system. Why has that been allowed to remain intact? I grew up in St. Paul and that city separated its sewer systems back in the 1970s before I left the state. And by the way, Alexandria has been raising its sanitary sewer rates regularly. What has it been doing with the money?

  7. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    TMT … Same thing in CT …. fixed back in the 70’s.

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