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Fairfax County could eventually take over maintenance of all stormwater retention ponds now owned and maintained by homeowners associations in the county.

The county already maintains many of these types of facilities, which are designed to collect water running off of developed properties in a neighborhood.

The primary types are dry ponds, which hold water for a short time before discharging it to a nearby stream, and wet ponds or retention ponds, which contain water year-round and gradually filter pollutants and sediment.

County staff have been studying whether to use funds from the stormwater tax implemented several years ago to take over maintenance of additional types of facilities.

For now, the staff is recommending that the county only take over maintenance of the large dry and wet ponds, rather than the smaller varieties of stormwater control systems, at an estimated cost of about $1.5 million per year.

This would provide equity, because the county is already maintaining many of these facilities, said Randy Bartlett, deputy director of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. In addition, these ponds often end up treating stormwater runoff from outside the boundaries of the community that is paying for its upkeep.

Compared to other options, this approach is less expensive and less complicated while still helping the county meet its clean water requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Act, Bartlett said.

“It has a much better cost-benefit ratio than taking on all of the small facilities,” he said.

Homeowners associations that want to turn pond maintenance over to the county would first have to bring the facility up to functional condition, if it is not already functioning property.

The county would also have to enter into legal agreements for each facility that spell out what the county’s responsibility is and what the community is still responsible for, Bartlett said, “so we don’t get, ‘Hey county, cut the grass!’” The HOA would remain responsible for mowing and litter on the property.

Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) expressed concern that this proposal would have the most benefit to community associations that have failed to maintain their stormwater ponds.

“The people who for 20 years ignored their dry pond and now it’s a mess … we’re essentially bailing them out,” Cook said.

That is the reason for the proposed requirement that the ponds have to be functioning before the county will take over maintenance, Bartlett said. The county could also consider having communities pay for the initial repairs through an additional stormwater tax, he said.

Some supervisors expressed concerns that this would make the process overly complicated on both the HOA and county sides.

The proposal is continuing to be refined and is undergoing legal review. It could come back to the board’s Environmental Committee for additional discussion later this fall.