As of Aug. 16, 2018
Frequently Asked Questions related to the North Side Salt Tank storage at 25th Street North and Old Dominion Drive
Existing Tank Structure
- Why is the existing tank deemed unsafe?
The structure was originally a water tank built in 1928 for the 25th Street site, the original location of the County’s water department. It was converted to salt storage in the 1960s.
A recent structural evaluation conducted in late April 2018 (and received by the County in early May) by a third-party consultant deemed the structure “near impossible to adequately repair.” The evaluation noted through-wall rust and bulging of the tank’s wall panels, salt-induced corrosion on roof support columns, and damage to the protective concrete bases of the columns and foundation. There was also some leeching observed on the sides of the tank from exposure of salt with rain water. The extent of wall panel damage suggests the potential for a localized side wall rupture.
Following the third-party inspection, the County’s Inspection Services Division conducted its own evaluation of the structure (May 2018) and deemed it “unsafe condition for use…” The County’s Chief Building Official conducted a final walk-through in June 2018 and confirmed that the structure was unsafe for further operational use.
- What preventative measures has the County taken over the years?
The County has taken steps over the decades to maintain and extend the life of the existing salt tank. In 1998, the central column in the structure was replaced and in 2012 the roof was reinforced with six columns. At that time, we expected the work would extend the life of the structure for another 5 years.
- Could County operations workers unload salt and still work from the existing tank?
Because of the decrepit condition of the structure, it would be unsafe for County workers to unload salt from the existing tank particularly in winter storms with the dynamics of snow and sleet in the mix. The County’s Chief Building Official has advised that for safety, salt should only be removed in a controlled setting in advance of demolition of the salt tank.
- Can the County explain the timing of the public release of the inspection report?
The third-party inspection results were received in early May, and County staff, per standard protocols, ￼first vetted the information in the report internally. The report was provided to the Inspection Services Division in the Department of Community Housing, Planning and Development in May, which conducted its own inspection. Staff discussed and considered multiple rehabilitation ideas and temporary structures that might fit within the existing site. Final determination that the structure was deemed unsafe for further operational use and that no viable options for rehabilitation were available was made by the County’s Building Official in June. This coincided with when the County began to inform community leaders of the need to replace the existing salt tank.
- Why do we need road salt?
Salt is critical when responding to winter events to melt snow and ice from our roads. This ensures that the traveling public is safe from the adverse weather conditions, and allows counties and cities to get back to normal after the winter event.
- How much salt capacity does the County have? How much do we need?
The County currently has a storage capacity of 9,500 tons of salt. The 25th Street North site accounts for approximately 60 percent of our inventory (inside existing tank and beneath adjacent industrial-size tarp; salt beneath tarp was removed from site in early August 2018 ahead of construction); the other 40 percent is housed at the Shirlington Trades Center. The amount of salt used varies storm-by-storm and by season. Back-to-back storms, in particular, can quickly exhaust our salt supply, which occurred during the winter season of 2014-15 when the region (and County) ran low on salt.
- Why do we need two locations for salt storage?
Having two operational sites in the north and south ensures geographic coverage, capacity and efficiency that is needed to clear snow and ice from roads around the clock during storms. These two locations minimize travel time during snow operations and allow for adequate loading throughput of our trucks.
- Doesn’t salt have environmental impacts on our streams?
A number of studies in recent years have noted the environmental impacts road salt has to our streams, ecosystems and infrastructure. Arlington is part of several regional and national initiatives to study the use of salt and what can be done to minimize effects on our environment.
Our crews work year-round to ensure we’re deploying best practices and exercising good judgment in the amount of salt used during each event. The County uses several techniques to get the greatest effect from salt treatment while limiting its use – we use brine (salt mixed with liquid) or pre-wetting of our roadways prior to the snow event, calibrate our trucks to prevent excessive application and whenever possible, we let residual brine from a previous event or Mother Nature (sunshine) do the work.
- Are there other options besides salt that can help? Like beet juice?
The County was one of the first in the region to experiment with beet juice. We moved away from using it after experiencing issues with the beet juice clogging our equipment and complaints from residents about its color and odor. There is also a growing understanding in the environmental community that beet juice may not be less impactful than brine. Beet juice still introduces chlorides into streams and increases Biological Oxygen Demand in our waterways.
The County will continue to actively participate in regional or other studies and initiatives to minimize the impact that our snow clearing operations has upon our environment.
- Why can’t the County just demolish the existing tank and build over the top of it?
This was the first option that was explored, however, due to schedule risk, site configuration issues and construction complexities, County staff determined that this could not be achieved in time for this winter season. The testing, design, and construction tasks would delay completion of the structure into 2019. Additionally, there are multiple complexities and schedule risks associated with salt relocation, demolition and site prep which would result in risks that salt storage would not be available prior to the winter storm season and would affect critical public services.
- Why would the salt from the existing tank need to be moved to Baltimore if the tank was demolished and replaced on the site?
The County’s salt provider is located in Baltimore and there are no other feasible options to store the salt in Northern Virginia. The County has checked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), as well as neighboring jurisdictions in Falls Church and Alexandria. All had lack of space to house the County’s salt storage. The Shirlington Trades Center is also at capacity and cannot hold any more salt.
- Why can’t we place the temporary structure on the already paved leaf and mulch site on the 25th Street North site?
This was an option the County explored after the community suggested the leaf mulch site. The temporary canvas structure requires a level platform, while the leaf and mulch site has a front-to-back 10-foot drop. It would require foundation work and installation of retaining walls, which presents a schedule risk and additional costs. This area would also require a rezoning.
On a service level, moving the temporary salt tank to the leaf-mulch pile would impact the leaf collection program. Without the ability to process leaves at the site, the County would face two choices: 1) suspending the leaf collection program for 3-4 years, meaning that households would have to bag their own leaves or 2) identifying another site for leaf collection and mulching in a short period of time and with proper engagement.
- Has County staff explored shifting the temporary structure closer to the existing salt structure?
Yes, after consulting with the community, we heard that preserving trees and greenspace is critical. Staff has developed an option adjacent (approximately 40 feet) to the existing salt tank. While this option requires relocation of the supplementary salt pile and imposes operational challenges if the salt tank cannot be demolished ahead of the winter season, it would save some mature trees.
- Are there any other options the County has explored?
There were various solutions that were considered. In addition to the options listed above, the County explored private parcels, the Buck site (on North Quincy Street) and the Shirlington Trades Center. Most weren’t feasible, given the primary criteria of readiness for snow / storm services in November, which required an accelerated schedule and a north Arlington location to ensure the timely provision of snow services in the northern section of the County. Additionally, this has been an established long use at the 25th Street North site.
- When will the siting decision for the temporary structure be made?
A decision on the ultimate siting for the temporary structure will be made in early August and will be discussed with the community during a site walk. Site work to prepare for the structure will begin in mid-August.
- What will the temporary structure look like?
The County is proposing building an 85-foot by 120-foot hangar-like structure of canvas skin and steel trusses over a concrete block base. It would duplicate the location’s 6,000-ton salt capacity.
- How long will the temporary structure be up?
The interim structure is expected to be used for 3 to 4 years, while staff and the community go through the master planning process, which is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019 and last about 9 months. One of the planning tasks will be finalizing a location on the site for a permanent structure. The 3-to-4-year time frame will allow for planning to be completed followed by the procurement, design and construction of the permanent facility.
- What kind of outreach can the community expect with the temporary structure?
Staff will continue to consult with the community on the ultimate placement of the temporary structure on the 25th Street North site. The community will also be given the opportunity to weigh in on the canvas skin color of the structure. We are committed to providing routine email updates to the community, and will post the information on the project website.
Rezoning Parcels at 25th Street North
- Why do you need to rezone four parcels?
The County advertised to rezone four parcels (R-6 and S-3A to P-S) at 26th Street North to provide maximum flexibility to place and construct the interim, temporary structure in time for this winter season. As County staff works to narrow down where the exact site will be (in consultation with the community), the advertised rezoning may be modified and a final determination on rezoning action will be made by the County Board at its September 2018 meeting.
- Why can’t the County build on S-3A zoned properties?
The purpose of S-3A Special District is to encourage the retention of certain properties in a relatively undeveloped state or for public facilities such as schools, libraries and community centers. The salt storage facility is a long-standing, yet non-conforming use in this location and in order to meet the interim/temporary needs, the zoning must change to accommodate the use.
As a public district, P-S is intended to be used for County operations, including yards and maintenance, fire stations, water storage, parks, and wastewater treatment. The P-S District allows for salt storage and other storage as a matter of right.
- Why the delay on the master planning process?
The permanent salt storage structure was meant to be part of a comprehensive master planning process of the 26th Street North site. The master planning had to be timed after the Fire Station No. 8 process, in order to properly plan whether or not to include the fire station on the site. Ultimately the outcome of the public process was to site Fire Station No. 8 at its current location on Lee Highway and North Culpeper Street. This, along with commitments made by the County Board and County staff, to other priorities delayed any progress on the long-term planning of the site.
- When is the master planning going to take place?
The County is committed to kicking off the master planning process for 25th Street North. At the September Board Meeting, staff will share details on scope, public engagement process and timeline. We expect the process to start in the first quarter of 2019 and will go through the third quarter of 2019. This will be a collaborative engagement process with the community and led by staff from the departments of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Environmental Services, and Parks and Recreation.
- What if siting for the temporary structure isn’t the optimal location for the permanent tank?
This interim solution will not preclude any final long-term uses at the site. As part of the master planning, the desired outcomes will include determining permanent salt storage facility placement, any near-term and long-term compatible uses, appropriate General Land Use Plan (GLUP) and zoning designations, funding strategies and an implementation timeline.
- Will the long-term planning process include a possible park?
Yes, as part of the master planning process for the 7.5 acre site at 25th Street North will include consideration of a new public park.