NVSWCD Frequently Asked Questions
What type of soil do I have on my property?
Email the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District or call 703-324-1460, TTY 711 with your street address in Fairfax County, and staff can identify the soils at that location if the area has been mapped. If you live in Arlington County, call 703-228-3629, TTY 711 for soils information or view a map online (pdf). No information is currently available for the City of Alexandria or the City of Falls Church because the soils have not been mapped. Call or email the soil and water conservation districts in Prince William (703-594-3621, TTY 711) or Loudoun (703-771-8395, TTY 711) counties for soils information in those jurisdictions.
How do I get my soil tested?
You may pick up a soil testing kit at the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District office or at any Fairfax County public library. The kit has instructions explaining how to send a sample to a lab at Virginia Tech. For a fee of $10.00, the soil testing lab will send you an analysis within two weeks. "Testing Your Soils Fertility", an article from the NVSWCD's publication Conservation Currents provides additional information.
How do I report sediment coming off an active construction site?
Call Fairfax County's Code Enforcement Division at 703-324-1937, TTY 711 or send an email.
If a piece of land has not been mapped for soils, how should a builder identify the soils in the site development plan?
In unmapped areas or for parcels where soil types cannot be definitively extrapolated from adjacent mapped parcels, the builder must have a soil scientist visit the site to map the soils on the property before building can commence. The Permit Office, 703-324-1555, TTY 711, on the second floor of the Herrity Building has a list of certified soil scientists for hire. A 2001 Letter to Industry explains when geotechnical reports are required for submission.
What can a typical homeowner do to improve the health of streams?
Get a soil test before you fertilize and then apply fertilizers and pesticides responsibly. Don't cut the grass to the edge of a stream or pond. Leave a buffer to filter pollutants and provide wildlife habitat. NVSWCD staff can advise homeowners on problems with ponds, eroding streams, drainage, problem soils and other natural resource concerns. For more information about managing land for a healthier watershed, read You and Your Land, a Homeowner's Guide for the Potomac River Watershed and the Watershed Stewardship Guide.
What is a TMDL?
TMDL stands for Total Maximum Daily Load. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a given pollutant from all contributing sources that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL is always specific to one type of pollution. For example, Accotink Creek, above Lake Accotink, has been identified as an impaired water body under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. Therefore, the Commonwealth of Virginia, under a federal mandate, must develop a TMDL for Accotink Creek. In addition to being a calculation, a TMDL is a plan that defines the pollution reductions needed to meet water quality standards. It also serves as a model for restoring the water body by allocating those reductions among the sources of pollution in the watershed. Thus, a key to TMDL development is identifying the sources of the pollutant.
Are horse farms on the bigger lots in Fairfax County good or bad for the environment?
Typically horse farms are good because of their low density and small impervious cover, but it's important that they are properly managed to keep pollutants out of the streams. An NVSWCD staff member works with horse-keepers to develop and implement conservation plans that prevent pasture erosion, minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides and manage the manure. A guide to agricultural best management practices for horse operations in suburban communities is also available on the NVSWCD website.
Where can I get advice on solving drainage and erosion problems in my yard?
The technical staff of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District can assess the problems and advise you on possible solutions. Send us an email with your name, address, daytime phone number, and a brief description of your problem or call 703-324-1460, TTY 711.
Runoff from nearby roads is causing drainage and erosion problems in my yard. Who can I call to file a complaint?
Most highways in Fairfax County are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). If you have a complaint about ditches, drainage, or storm drains on state owned or maintained property, call VDOT at 703-383-8368, TTY 711. The operator will forward your complaint to the appropriate VDOT area office.
Can I build a pond in my backyard?
Ponds can be constructed for fishing, swimming, landscaping, animal and wildlife watering or water quality management. Depending upon the size and location of the pond, certain regulations may apply. The article "Building a Farm or Amenity Pond" can provide you with additional information.
I want to label storm drains in my neighborhood. Who should I contact?
The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District coordinates storm drain labeling projects in Fairfax County. Call the program coordinator at 703-324-1433, TTY 711 or send an email.
What should I do if I see someone pour motor oil or paint down a storm drain?
If you see anyone pouring any substance into the storm drain, you should call 911, especially if it is motor oil or another toxic substance. If the person has a vehicle, write down the tag number. Storm drains are for stormwater only, NOT motor oil, paint or even grass clippings. If you don't see it happening but suspect dumping has occurred, you should report it to the Hazardous Materials Technical Support Branch of the Fire and Rescue Department. Call 703-246-4386, TTY 711.
I have a tree that is sick. Who can advise me on this?
I am having trouble with my septic system. Who should I call?
Call the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2201, TTY 711.
Where do I call to initiate water service?
Call the Fairfax County Water Authority at 703-698-5800, TTY 711.
I am concerned about bacteria in meat I recently purchased. Where can I report this?
For food safety concerns in a grocery, contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-552-9963. For questions about food safety in a restaurant, call the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2444, TTY 711.
What areas of northern Virginia do you cover?
When it was founded in 1945, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) included Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties. In 1971, the three counties split into three districts, and Fairfax County retained the Northern Virginia title. Today NVSWCD has the same geographic boundaries as Fairfax County, which includes the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna. The District does not include the cities of Falls Church, Fairfax or Alexandria.
Is this the U.S. Department of Agriculture?
No, we are the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. We work closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can reach the NRCS District Conservationist at 703-771-8395, TTY 711. The general number for the USDA in Washington, DC, is 202-720-2791, TTY 202-720-2791. The closest office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is in Warrenton at 540-347-6380, TTY 711.