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Dumping Site Goes Green at Burke Centre

A project is underway to clean up a resource protection area.

A former dumping site in Burke Centre is undergoing a makeover. West of Premier Court and south of the VRE tracks is a 12-acre patch of floodplain that has, over the years, become home to piles of concrete, bricks, asphalt, batteries and even a car frame or two.

The land was once used by contractors as a place to dump and store materials, said Burke Centre Conservancy executive director Patrick Gloyd, but because of convenient vehicular access to the site, it became known unofficially as a good place to dump odds and ends as well.

"It started out as wanting to expand the parking area," said Gloyd. "But then it got out of hand."

Several years ago, he said, the Conservancy realized it had to do something about the land, which directly borders the wetlands surrounding Sideburn Branch. As it stood, the area was in violation of "resource protection area" standards set in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance.

The ordinance, enacted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors a decade ago, regulates the kinds of development allowed in sensitive areas, or resource protection areas, along streams draining into the Potomac River and, eventually, Chesapeake Bay.

In their natural state, the resource protection areas act as filters for pollutants that would otherwise run off into the streams. According to Rick Scaffidi of Environmental Quality Resources, LLC, wetlands and other areas close to streams are integral to water quality, as they pick up nitrogen, phosphates and other contaminant and bind them in the soil like a giant filter.

"It acts as a purifier before the water goes into the stream system," said Scaffidi.

According to the Fairfax County Web site, when the resource protection area is compromised, it diminishes the quality of the water flowing into the watershed. Unprotected areas also lead to erosion and destruction of wildlife habitat.

"It truly was an intrusion into the environmental protection area that needed to be improved," said Gloyd.

The concrete and asphalt and other fill materials sitting atop the soil, along with trailers, storage piles and other waste materials compromise the resource protection area, he said. Contractors have pulled some "oddball" items off the site, he said, such as a propane tank, car batteries, and the frame of a truck. Car batteries have been the most hazardous items found on the site, however.

"For car tires and things like that, and there are a lot of car tires, we are going to have to find other ways to dispose of them," said Gloyd. "But other than that, nothing really sinister."

The process to repair the area began with an assessment in 2000, when engineer Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. recommended that Burke Centre remove all the fill material from the land, regrade it, and seed the areas where the waste and fill had been.

The process of fixing a resource protection area like the one in Burke Centre is simple, said Al Fox, project manager for Environmental Quality Resources. The contractors have already removed the storage trailers and waste containers on the land as well as most of the piles of stone, firewood, sand, and mulch that were there. They are currently re-grading the land back to its original level, to remove the estimated 1,800 cubic yards of fill in the floodplain. Since January, about 120 truckloads of fill have left the site for landfills in Maryland and Prince William County. Some of it is being put to use as building material for an access road off the main road, said Fox.

"We're taking the good stuff and building an access road," he said. "Rather than hauling it out to the landfill, we'll use it for the base of a road."

After the grading is finished, said Gloyd, the contractors will construct a retaining wall across the length of the site, and fence the area in to discourage future dumping.

THE PROJECT will cost about $216,000, said Gloyd. The Conservancy originally set aside $100,000 for the project, he said, but base costs plus a contingency cost of $94,000 if the bulk of the material removed is hard fill rather than soft dirt, with an added $50,000 for planting costs, made for the higher price tag.

"If this had all been nice, great soil, $100,000 would not have been far off," said Gloyd.

When it is over, the area will be transformed from a landfill area to a green space filled with native Virginia plants. The seed mix includes trees such as pin oak, dogwood, red maple, green ash, and sweet gum, said Fox, along with grasses and shrubs such as joe pye weed, sedge, swamp milkweed and rough bluegrass.

The project itself, however, is fairly short, said Gloyd, most likely finished by spring or early summer.

"We're excited because it's a long-standing project and we're finally getting it done," he said.