The Department of Environmental Services (DES) has a vision and mission to make Arlington a “vibrant, accessible, and sustainable community through strategic transportation, environmental and capital investment projects, while providing excellent customer service, operations and maintenance in a safe and healthy environment for all.” However, in my experience on commissions, working groups and overall community projects, the only thing strategic about this department as it relates to the environment is a strategic goal to destroy the environment.
DES has systematically made Arlington hotter, wetter, and, and more unlivable through their involvement in every project by using loop holes in policy to eliminate trees, straighten streams, undermine the Chesapeake Bay storm water management guidelines, and advocate for untethered development in Arlington. Especially since the shocking floods in July, you would think that DES would be front and center at planning meetings and pushing partner departments to think more broadly about the impacts of development on the county’s long term sustainability – whether that be Reed School and saving the woods for canopy cover in a neighborhood that had significant damage from the summer rains, the Holiday Inn development where over ½ an acre of park land has disappeared in Rosslyn and been incorporated into the new development, the destruction of a parcel of woods in Rosslyn to support the boat house development, the expansion of an RPA in Jennie Dean Park, or the wholesale destruction of the woods at the skate park which will contribute to the flooding in Bluemont park, to name just a few. Unfortunately, DES has been silent or actively working for the cementing of Arlington.
Therefore, I would argue that their name should be the Department of Public Works. A public works department is responsible for, but not limited to day-to-day maintenance of infrastructure services such as sewer maintenance and facility operation, sanitation, street maintenance, city storm and sanitary sewer operations, and emergency response for snow and ice, flood, severe weather mitigation. And, that is what the Arlington County DES is doing. There is no evidence to suggest that they are creating a sustainable community, care about the environment, or are thinking about the future of our community.