There will be a West Montgomery County Citizens Association Meeting (WMCCA) on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. at the Potomac Library, 10101 Glenolden Drive. The topic is "Proposed Mid-River Intake for Water Filtration Plant on River Road."
Speakers from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission include Plato Chen, WSSC Environmental Group Senior Scientist; Joe Johnson, Superintendent, WSSC Potomac Water Filtration Plant; and Marc P. Lieber, WSSC Commissioner from Montgomery County.
<b>Speaker from the Montgomery County Government: David Lake, Deputy Director, Department of Environmental Protection</b>
The Watts Branch Stream watershed begins in the City of Rockville and terminates at the intake valve of the Potomac Water Filtration Plant on River Road. Here water is withdrawn to supply public drinking water to Montgomery and Prince George's counties. For years, the sediment conditions of the Watts Branch, particularly during and after rains, have created problems at the filtration plant. Sediment is a pollutant.
Like Virginia a few years back, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is seeking a mid-river intake to avoid sediment that fouls the shoreline of the Potomac River. When Virginia applied for their mid-river intake (located opposite Riley's Lock on the Potomac), Maryland filed a suit over the right to use the Potomac River, and the case reached the Supreme Court.
On the Maryland side of the Potomac River, this proposal has wide reaching impacts that include the C&O Canal National Historical Park, deforestation and permanent installations on an unnamed island, and concerns about the river itself. As a significant contributor to the drinking water supply, why has the Watts Branch been allowed to degrade to this point? Once we start drawing our drinking water from the middle of the river while continuing to allow the streams that feed it to become polluted where do we go next? Come ask your own questions of our experts. The public is welcome.
<b>President's Letter: Inconvenient Truths of the Potomac Subregion by Susanne Lee. </b>
One inconvenient environmental truth: Notwithstanding what we thought would be effective state and county forest conservation statutes, the destruction of forest canopy continues unabated. The percentage of the county that is forested decreased from 45 percent in 1973, to 32 percent in 1986, to 28 percent in 2000. Rather than maintaining forest cover, the canopy has decreased and forests are more fragmented than when the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Statute was enacted.
Another inconvenient truth: Even though the Potomac Master Plan and Montgomery County's Ten-Year Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan generally prohibit the extension of sewer into low-density, environmentally sensitive areas such as Potomac subregion, unwarranted sewer extensions continue throughout the subregion. The results are dramatic and predictable intense development on our most environmentally sensitive land, destruction of large stands of mature trees, increased pavement and stormwater runoff, and oversize developments out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods.
Yet another inconvenient truth: We all live downstream. The enormous King Farm, Fallsgrove and Traville/Shady Grove developments are in the headwaters or along the network of streams that flow through the subregion. These developments have had huge impacts on traffic in the area as well as major impacts on water quality.
In the months ahead, the West Montgomery County Citizens Association will be working to address these and other evolving environmental truths, with special emphasis on the following:
* Forest Conservation Law: Vigorous enforcement of the existing requirements and enactment of the revisions necessary to make the law and regulations truly protective.
* Glen Hills Sewer Study: The study will provide vital information not only with regard to Glen Hills, but also the elements necessary to promote successful septic use in low-density areas.
* Green Infrastructure Master Plan: A much needed Montgomery County initiative to protect the "other" infrastructure—the network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats and other natural areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, and sustain air and water resources.
* Stream health and water quality issues: Efforts to address stormwater runoff, stream pollution and the proposed WSSC Mid-River Intake.
In Search Of a New Board Member: WMCCA has an opening on its Board of Directors. This is a great way to get involved in challenging local issues. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Susanne Lee at 301-738-7987.
<b>Planning and Zoning: by George Barnes </b>
Justement Woods—Change property at 11731 Glen Mill Road. The developer has made changes to the plan originally submitted to the Planning Board/Development Review Board and is seeking a meeting on site with neighbors and WMCCA to address concerns of the community.
Falls Road Dental Office—A hearing was held on Sept. 28 on an application for a Special Exception for a dental office with a non-resident dentist. Prior dentists at this address have resided in the building, which is approved similarly to a home occupation. The hearing was to be continued at a later date because some of the information that the applicant submitted had not been reviewed by Parking & Planning technical staff. WMCCA will testify on our concerns when the hearing is rescheduled.
Esworthy Estates—A nine-acre parcel with 20 feet of road frontage on Travilah Road has a preliminary plan for four houses at the end of a long pipestem driveway. Zoning regulations require road frontage at least 25 feet. A waiver would be required and the Planning Board has never granted a waiver for more than two houses with insufficent frontage. It would be an unwelcome precedent if the Planning Board began granting multi-lot subdivisions in locations that do not meet requirements of the zoning ordinance.
TPC at Avenel—A special exception hearing is scheduled for Oct. 13 before the Hearing Examiner on an application to modify the existing special exception for the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. Individuals may testify at the hearing both at the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals without prior notice; groups must give notice of their intention to testify before the Board of Appeals ten days prior to the hearing date.
Just a note about the process in case you are confused by the names and players. The Board of Appeals has jurisdiction over Special Exceptions and variances. The Planning Board has jurisdiction over Development plans, first preliminary, then final. The Planning Board will also hold a hearing on a Special Exception to determine if it meets the criteria set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, and the Planning Board's technical staff will evaluate the application for compliance with other county statutes such as forest conservation, stormwater, imperviousness and parking. The Planning Board will report its findings to the Board of Appeals and make a recommendation. The Board of Appeals has delegated the conduct of Special Exception hearings to the office of the Montgomery County Hearing Examiner who will conduct the actual hearing and make a report to the Board of Appeals, which will then vote to approve or deny the application based on the evidence and recommendations from those hearings.
<b>Environmental Report byGinny Barnes </b>
1. Proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Law (FCL) submitted to the County Council by the C&O Canal Task Force are being converted into a bill that Councilmember Howard Denis hopes to introduce after the first of the year.
2. Bill 26-06 to establish a Forest Preservation Advisory Board was introduced by Tom Perez. There has been a public hearing before the County Council and discussion at the Planning Board.
3. A Forest Conservation Task Force at MNCPPC is concentrated on improving the current FCL's implementation process, and will issue a set of recommendations by the end of the year.
Stormwater: The Stormwater Partners Coalition, which includes WMCCA, is a broadly based county-wide group of civic and environmental groups trying to add measurable pollutant standards to the NPDES Permit issued by Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to jurisdictions under the Federal Clean Water Act. Without placing limits on pollutants entering our streams, we cannot stem the degradation of water quality throughout Montgomery County watersheds. This issue is closely linked to forest conservation because one of the best attenuation measures for stormwater run-off is trees and forest. As we continue to lose forest, water quality declines too.
Over the summer, using data from the county's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Stormwater Partners compiled a list of the Top Ten most polluted streams in our county that includes several in the Potomac Subregion. Cabin John, Rock Run, Muddy Branch and Watt Branch all have pollutants such as raw sewerage leaks, biological declines, bacteria and sediment. In Watts Branch, it is estimated the sediment pollution causes an additional $800,000 annually in drinking water treatment. A draft permit is expected to be issued by MDE sometime this fall.