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Location, location, location… it really does come down to that.

The True North proposal for a large data center on the banks of Goose Creek, between Sycolin Road and the Dulles Greenway, is in a terrible location that would put our public drinking water supply at risk. The Board is set to vote on the proposal this Thursday, January 18.

The property in question is immediately upstream of the Goose Creek Reservoir, and the public drinking water intake for Loudoun Water. This is a crucial point.

It’s a bad place for a water supply contamination “hotspot.” Large data centers typically store diesel fuel in quantities of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of gallons and they fuel up regularly. The potential for spills, leaks or disasters is a concern. The County, and therefore Loudoun residents, will pay the price in case of any contamination, along with the creek, fish and other critters that make the stream their home.

It’s also a bad spot for so much pavement. The 750,000-square-foot project would cover more land than seven average-sized Walmarts. The impervious roof tops would be accompanied with driveways, parking lots and hardened storage yards. As a result, torrents of runoff would hit Goose Creek with much higher levels of sediment and other pollution than do currently.

In Phase 1 alone, there would be 20 acres of rooftops, pavement, etc., on a 45-acre portion of the property (per the site plan submitted to the county).

Approving True North on this key site, with a hotspot and a massive increase in imperviousness, would indicate that protecting the water we drink is not a priority for Loudoun.

Common sense would argue against locating a commercial and industrial facility with a requirement for chemical and fuel storage so close to a public drinking water supply.  And so does federal, state and local policy. In fact, chemical and fuel storage is an explicit concern of the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership which includes Loudoun Water. 

Ensuring clean and safe drinking water means protecting its sources in addition to treating it to drinking water standards. Source water protection experts recommend prohibiting fuel storage near drinking water intakes and reservoirs. They also recommend reducing impervious cover nearby.

A True North Data approval would weaken the entire Reservoir Protection Area; what defensible rationale could the County use to say no to such proposals that pose a foreseeable threat to the reservoir? With proliferating hotspots and imperviousness, the Reservoir Protection Area would no longer be serving its purpose.

Loudoun has an obligation to protect public drinking water supplies as required under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The County also has an overlapping responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents.

That is why the Comprehensive Plan policies and current zoning are in place on the Transition Area side of the reservoir. As currently allowed, there would only be about 4 acres of impervious cover (and 10 houses max) on the entire 105 acres. More of the natural filters (forest, mature trees and wetlands) are likely to remain intact. It also helps offset impacts from more density in the Suburban Area east of Goose Creek.

On Thursday, the board should vote against True North to uphold our drinking water protections. They should keep the low density zoning intact and add further land use protections for the public water supply through the Envision Loudoun Comprehensive Plan update. Then the County should initiate a Source Water Protection Plan, something highly recommended by the Virginia Department of Health. Most important, the County should use this debate to provide the impetus to implement the plan.

This location and the people of Loudoun deserve no less.

Gem Bingol

Loudoun resident and field representative for The Piedmont Environmental Council

Comments


Could it be that democrat and republican alike will sell out one as quick as the other, yes. Leads me to believe a green candidate like Gem Bingol might serve Loudoun well as a supervisor.


It has finally come to the point where I trust Gem Bingol more than the Board of Supervisors.


Loudoun Economic Dev already has plans for number of data centers to go over 100 from 70.  This company should be able to find a better fit for their business and respect to public’s natural resources.  It’s a good business practice. 

Board members who are thinking about approving this may not realize the risk factors for the Source Water Protection.  During the staff presentation on Envision Loudoun, Board also verified the fact that majority of residents input was to keep TPA as is.  Low density, transitional from suburbs to rural.  The Board should not use any other existing changes as an excuse to put more changes.  Otherwise, there will always be excuses.

Comments express only the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website or any associated person or entity. Any user who believes a message is objectionable can contact us at ltmeditor@loudountimes.com.

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