Fairfax County gets state funding toward Pohick Creek stabilization project


Treated water flows into Pohick Creek from Noman Cole Pollution Control Plant (Credit: Fairfax County/YouTube)

Fairfax County’s desire to ensure uninterrupted wastewater collection and treatment service for Fort Belvoir is one step closer to reality thanks to a grant received from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On Nov. 2, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the obligation of $111,500 to Fairfax County under the Virginia Military Community Infrastructure Grant Program — a brand-new funding mechanism established in 2022 to help localities pursue Department of Defense (DOD) funding for making infrastructure, resilience and quality of life improvements that are beneficial to both military installations and surrounding communities. Through the grant program, the state shares federal matching requirements with localities, enabling them to better compete for and win federal funding.

The Commonwealth’s grant for Fairfax County will support an overall $510,000 project to evaluate and design the stabilization of a portion of Pohick Creek near the Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant in Lorton. County officials are concerned that future flooding and erosion might damage process facilities at the plant, impacting wastewater treatment service for Fort Belvoir and potentially resulting in the release of untreated sewage.

“As the flow pattern of the stream has changed, it has been coming closer to the facility and eroding the supports of an onsite bridge,” said Sarah Motsch, an engineer with Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES). “We are concerned that continuing erosion and high flow events will damage or impact process facilities at the plant.”

This past August, DPWES applied to the DOD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program for a $255,000 grant to help fund the project. The county hopes to hear back about its acceptance by year’s end, said Motsch. The application required a local cash match, which DPWES partially will offset with the state funding and with $143,500 in county wastewater sewer construction improvement funds, according to DPWES spokesperson Sharon North.

Assuming all the funding comes together, the county’s assessment of the stream will start in January and last about six months, said Motsch. That will be followed by the design phase in which the county realigns the stream to move it away from plant facilities.

Funding for the eventual construction phase is expected to come from sewer funds and possibly a DOD Defense of Critical Infrastructure Program grant, according to county documents.

This is not the first time the county has had to stabilize the stream near the wastewater treatment facility. In early 2018, the county completed a project in which it stabilized an embankment and moved a tributary that was encroaching upon the plant’s equalization basins.

The current project will be managed by the Fairfax County Wastewater Management Program with support from the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which conducted a Military Installation Resilience Review for Fort Belvoir and helped DPWES put its grant application together.

“It has been a very collaborative effort, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received,” said Motsch.

The Noman Cole Pollution Control Plant, owned and operated by Fairfax County, treats around 40 million gallons of raw sewage per day, releasing treated water into Pohick Creek. The plant will hold an open house with tours on Saturday, Dec. 2.

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