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In a large and constantly growing county like Fairfax, construction is a daily way of life for thousands of Fairfax County residents. Right now, though, the future of the construction industry and the ability of Fairfax County to compete with our neighbors is at risk because of something we don’t think about very often: construction debris. Every worksite generates it, and in a county as large as Fairfax, it’s a major issue.

Fortunately, we handle all of Fairfax County’s construction debris right here in Fairfax County, at a local facility in Lorton operated by EnviroSolutions Inc., a regional company based in Northern Virginia. At this facility, all the material from our construction and redevelopment activities is sorted for recycling before being landfilled. The site has decades more life left in it, but the current application for operating the site runs out in December 2018. Right now, ESI has an application pending before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to extend the life of that facility through Dec. 31, 2040. It is critical for our environment and for our future economic development needs to keep this facility open and to extend this contract.

ESI’s application isn’t just to maintain the existing facility. They’ve also included, as a condition to the extension, a commitment to build a renewable energy park to demonstrate the practical application of solar, wind, methane conversion and geothermal energy in a major urban municipal center — one of the first of its kind in Virginia. ESI has also pledged to contribute over $18 million to community development, bringing a total investment by the company of over $32 million right here in Fairfax. Extending the life of this facility is a critical long-term solution that ensures that the county can dispose of its construction debris responsibly. This is a win for the environment, a win for economic development and a win for the taxpayers.

What happens if the board doesn’t grant the application? Nothing good. Closing the local construction debris landfill will create a need to open at least two new transfer facilities where construction debris can be processed before being transported to landfill sites in central Virginia. The added cost of processing the will increase costs of construction and revitalization, put even more trucks on an already clogged Interstate 95 and burn tons of diesel fuel adding to air quality issues in the region. It also hurts our competitiveness because LEED certifications and other environmental certifications include a limitation on the distance traveled for debris as a condition to be certified. With the focus on environmental stewardship that is a keystone of modern corporate social responsibility campaigns, not being able to relocate to a LEED or environmental friendly facility could be a deal breaker for some of our biggest potential relocations.

We strongly urge the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to grant ESI’s application so we can build a better economic and environmental future for Fairfax.

Jim Corcoran

The writer is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.