Protecting the Bay, one development at a time

Protecting the Bay, one development at a time

By Erich Wagner

A recently approved building project on Eisenhower Avenue will include a pond that serves as an amenity to residents and also gives the city a head start on complying with new federal stormwater regulations.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Alexandria officials must find a way to reduce city pollution of the Chesapeake Bay by 5 percent over the next five years. In agreement with the city, developer Paradigm Development Co. will build and maintain a pond on its property that will account for around 30 of the 120 to 300 acres of water treatment required by 2018.

Bill Skrabak, deputy director of the city transportation and environmental services department, said that while other developers in Alexandria — and elsewhere — are accustomed to providing stormwater management for their projects, they are usually hidden somehow.

“Particularly with these ponds, you can have a pond, let’s say in Fairfax, where it’s kind of behind the building that’s fenced off and nobody looks at,” Skrabak said. “In this case, it is situated right in front of their building. Because the city doesn’t want that space to be wasted, the goal is that this pond really is designed at a very high quality and is very aesthetically pleasing.”

According to the EPA, pollution from the five entities considered part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed — Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District — cause algae blooms that consume oxygen and create dead zones, where fish, shellfish and other wildlife cannot survive.

And Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension program website, which promotes economic development and environmental education, posits that stormwater retention ponds — like the one planned in Alexandria — can protect water quality by holding it in place until pollutants like sediment eventually fall to the bottom of the pond.

Skrabak said that not every developer has the conditions to build such a pond. The Hoffman pond works because there’s a small stream on the property that eventually dumps into the Potomac River.

But he hopes that others will be inspired to make stormwater management into appealing features for residents and customers.

“It’s not something we can cookie-cutter start replicating, but with similar conditions, it’s something to look at,” Skrabak said. “… We think it’s a good win-win for the city, environment and developer.”