News & Events

Page updated on Apr 24, 2017 at 9:19 AM


On May 1, 2012, the City of Alexandria and other municipalities will kick off their “Air Quality Action Days” program to increase awareness about the dangers of ground-level ozone, or smog and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays; however, it is considered a harmful air pollutant when present at ground level. Ground-level ozone is formed when pollution reacts with sunlight. PM2.5 are tiny drops of liquid or small particles of dust, metals and other materials that remain suspended in the air. Some particles are emitted directly, while others are formed in the atmosphere when pollutants react.


Index Values



0 - 50



51 - 100



101 - 150

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups


151 - 200



201 - 300

Very Unhealthy


Prolonged exposure to ozone and PM2.5 can cause inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract, lower resistance to colds and pneumonia, damage lung tissue and intensify heart and lung disease. The most susceptible are children, seniors, and individuals with respiratory ailments; however individuals of any age can be affected.

From May through September, air quality is forecasted for the following day on a region wide basis and is coded as purple, red, orange, yellow or green--purple and red being most unhealthy. Watch for “Air Quality Action Days” notifications on local TV news stations, weather forecasts, or search the DEQ website to view the air quality forecast. You may also visit the site to obtain real time ozone levels, courtesy of the City’s Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station.

Although helpful every day, when a Code Red day is forecasted, take the following voluntary actions to improve the region’s and Alexandria’s air quality.

  •  Instead of driving, walk, bike, or use mass transit
  • Avoid mowing lawns with gas-powered mowers
  • Put off any painting until later
  • Don’t use aerosol products
  • Refuel cars after 7:00 pm and do not idle unnecessarily
  • Spread the WORD                

The City is hopeful that you will join us in the effort to reduce the amount of pollutants entering our environment by DOING YOUR SHARE FOR CLEAN AIR! Please feel free to contact Erica Bannerman with the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) at 703-746-4067 if you have questions about the Air Quality Action Days program.

City of Alexandria Stream Cleanup Held as Part of the 27th Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup










Photo by malik m.l. williams

On Saturday, April 11th from 9:00am to 11:00am, the City hosted stream cleanups at Four Mile Run Park and Historic Holmes Run as part of the larger 27th Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup created by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.  124 eager and enthusiastic volunteers of all ages, representing communities across the City, joined over 10,000 volunteers from across the region to remove over 250 tons of trash from the watershed and be part of the cleanup effort to do something good for the community and for the environment.  The City hosted two locations, one along Four Mile Run and one along Historic Holmes Run.  A number of people who frequent the parks and associated walking/biking trails were on hand to witness the transformation.  We really appreciate the opportunity to work together with the City's citizens and appreciate your time and effort in making this event a success.  Sign up for Environmental eNews to get updates on the latest volunteer opportunities and other projects related to the Eco-City Alexandria initiatives.


Items Collected

The following items were collected:
170 bags of trash
Estimated 500 Plastic Bags (over 40,000 removed from the Potomac River watershed)
Estimated 300 cigarette butts and cigar plastic tips (over 27,000 removed from the Potomac River watershed)

Interesting Items: 
Bike parts
Shopping cart

Volunteers were enthusiastic in their participation and all expressed a sense of accomplishment about the trash we were able to remove.  The City appreciates the involvement of citizens in this type of effort.  But the best way to prevent the impact on trash on the environment is to properly dispose of non-recyclable materials and to recycle the other materials using the City’s Recycling Program.



Photo by malik m.l. williams

Why is Trash a Problem?

Trash is a serious problem in the Potomac River Watersheds, and its major tributaries. There is currently limited research or regional data that tracks the sources of regional trash. The majority of this trash probably originates as refuse improperly or intentionally disposed of along roadsides, in parking lots or in public and private open spaces. Trash travels from these areas into storm drains and waterways. Trash negatively impacts community aesthetic and well being, and interferes with public use and enjoyment of river and stream side parks. Trash can have significant negative chemical and biological impacts including: leaking and/or leaching of toxics from certain types of disposed items such as used oil containers, oil filters, and car batteries; interference with the establishment of emergent aquatic plants; and floating trash hazards to wildlife through ingestion of, or entanglement in, floating debris.

Only Rain"Only Rain Down the Storm Drain!" 
Help Prevent Water Pollution

Did you know that the water that goes down the storm drain on your street flows right into your local streams? Polluted rainwater is the nation's number one water quality problem, and the City of Alexandria is hoping that you can help do something about it! Alexandria is joining other Northern Virginia localities in a water pollution prevention campaign to educate residents about how common household waste and chemicals can contaminate local streams. The campaign features an “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain” message and is running on several TV and radio stations.

Nonpoint source pollution, often called stormwater runoff pollution, comes from many sources, including parking lots, lawns, driveways, golf courses, and roads. Rainwater that runs off these surfaces picks up contaminants like motor oil, fertilizer, pesticides, and bacteria from pet waste. This stormwater runoff flows into storm drains and then into local streams and the Potomac River, the sources of drinking water for many residents in the Washington, D.C. metro area. This runoff also contributes to the pollution affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

So what can you do to prevent water pollution? Follow these simple tips:

  • Dispose of used motor oil and household hazardous waste (paint, batteries, household cleaners, etc.) properly through the city’s Household Hazardous Waste program, rather than pouring it on the driveway or into the storm drain.
  • Avoid excess fertilizer or pesticide use, especially before rain is predicted.
  • Wash your car at a commercial carwash, or in a location where the soapy water will not run into the storm drain.
  • Sweep up dirt, grass clippings, other yard waste instead of washing them down the driveway and into the gutter.
  • Always pick up pet waste from your yard, sidewalk, or park area.

The campaign partners include Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Stafford County, Loudoun County, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, town of Herndon, Town of Leesburg, Town of Dumfries, Town of Vienna, Fairfax Water, Loudoun Water, Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Doody Calls, Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, George Mason University, and Prince William County Public Schools.

For more information about preventing stormwater pollution, please call the City of Alexandria Stormwater and Sanitary Infrastructure Division at 703-746-4014 or visit the Environmental Quality web site.

The Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners launches new website!
As part of the updated campaign to spread the word about steps we all can take to prevent pollution, the Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners launches the new Only Rain Down the Storm Drain website. Area governments and drinking water utilities formed the Partners through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to create a coordinated public education message about steps that can be taken to prevent water pollution.  The vast majority of the storm drains in Alexandria are directly connected to the areas local waterways. The campaign stresses the message that whatever goes down the storm drain can harm our local waterways and eventually end up in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.  So it is important to keep pollutants out of our storm drains so they don't pollute our surface and drinking water sources.  It's up to all of us!