After Ray Collins moved into his present-day home in Vienna in 1970, his four children enjoyed playing in the eight acres of thick woods near their yard. Years later, those woods, located off of Beulah Road, became the site for the Town of Vienna's leaf mulching operation.
But when Collins and other neighbors with the Northeast Vienna Citizens Association (NEVCA) saw the property over this summer become a temporary storage site for the Maple Avenue Enhancement Project, their concern over the property's health grew. Now they want to work with the town to determine whether any environmental damage has occurred on the site, as well as create a plan for future uses for the site.
"You could walk through to Beulah Road," Collins said. "The only thing that was back there in 1970 was the town well structure."
Earlier this fall, residents with the Northeast Vienna Citizens Association (NEVCA) had approached the town to create a joint task force between residents and council members to assess the environmental health of the site as well as determine future uses for the site. The resolution to form a task force was passed unanimously by NEVCA members on Sept. 23.
IT CALLED FOR conducting a hydrologic study to control water runoff and prevent site erosion; determine whether soil contamination had occurred, and if it had, determine a plan to remove contamination; determine environmental impact on the current leaf mulching operation; and conduct a cost-benefit analysis on conducting leaf mulching at other sites.
"Our goal is not to get rid of leaf pick up," said Vienna resident Adele Friedel, whose property adjoins the site.
Collins guessed that leaf mulching began on the site around 1989 or 1990. As leaf mulching continued, the land became more barren as time passed, according to yearly aerial photographs belonging to NEVCA.
This past July, Vienna resident Adele Friedel had returned from a business trip to discover that someone had created a 15-foot path with asphalt debris and millings from the center of the property to a manhole that sits next to her property line. When neighbors walked up the path, they found debris from the Maple Avenue Enhancement Project as well as traffic lights, used brick, pipes, rock piles, and storage of surplus machinery.
The town removed the debris shortly afterwards, and the Vienna Town Council apologized for the situation at a Nov. 11 work session.
Yet besides residents' concerns for the environmental health of the Beulah Road site, they also have problems with the noise level of the current leaf much operation. Friedel likened the noise to a "construction site," and was concerned that the leaf mulch operation and the smell of the leaf mulch after the operation adversely affects her property values.
"If they spend five million on a property yard, they should've done sufficient planning to accommodate their needs," Friedel said.
One of Ray Collins grown-up children, Jim Collins of Herndon, agreed with Friedel's assessment of the noise level. He approached the council on behalf of his mother to consider purchasing a portable leaf mulching machine.
"They have 100 issues, we have one," said Jim Collins, meaning that the council had many other issues to concentrate on.
At the work session on Nov. 11, the Vienna Town Council's discussion focused on the town's leaf mulch operation vs. the proposed joint task force. They heard from Vienna's public works director Dennis King, who explained that the asphalt millings were needed on the property's ground so vehicles for the leaf mulch wouldn't get stuck while driving through during the winter months. He also added that the silt pond was well below state standards for E. coli, and that it didn't violate state or federal environmental quality ordinances.
The council then asked town staff to draft a plan for the site. Once the plan is created, the council will hold a public hearing on the plan. Council members Al Boudreau and George Lovelace also recently asked the council to hold another work session on the leaf mulch operation, according to Vienna mayor Jane Seeman.
"If we need to go back to the drawing board, we will," said Seeman in an interview after the work session.
Yet residents hope to have a dialogue with staff and council on the site, so both sides can get the facts straight.
"We really wanted to talk about what happened and the future of this property," said NEVCA president Edgar Adamson.