WMCCA Looks at Local Drinking Water Supply

WMCCA Looks at Local Drinking Water Supply

WMCCA Meeting at the Potomac Community Center

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – 7:15 p.m.

If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

Speakers: Matt Logan, Potomac Riverkeeper

Diane Cameron, Conservation Program Director, Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS)

Water is much in the news lately. Over the summer, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) held a scoping meeting with the National Park Service to seek comment on environmental implications to the C&O Canal National Historic Park of their proposal to seek a mid-river intake at the filtration plant on River Road because sediment pollution coming from development projects upstream in Watts Branch (which enters the Potomac at the site of the current intake) is too heavy to assure treatment. The filtration plant provides drinking water to 4.3 million people. Even more recently, several environmental groups (including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Potomac Riverkeeper) announced intent to file suit against the WSSC for pollution from the drinking water filtration plant on River Road for illegal discharge of sediment sludge into the Potomac. The WSSC Potomac filtration plant is alleged to have a malfunctioning system installed 10 years ago, that has regularly forced plant operators to release mud containing aluminum and phosphorus into the river. See:


In Clarksburg, a battle is raging over how much development it will take to forever impair Ten Mile Creek, considered Montgomery County's 'last best stream'. Along with flows from Cabin Branch and Little Seneca, Ten Mile Creek feeds the Little Seneca Reservoir and forms the core of a Water Supply Cooperative agreement formalized in 1982 to assure stewardship of a critical emergency drinking water supply. Saving Ten Mile Creek has been a primary objective for a Coalition of organizations led in large part, by ANS. Our speakers — Matt Logan, Potomac Riverkeeper and Diane Cameron, Conservation Program Director, Audubon Naturalist Society — will discuss the links between the Potomac River and stream health, helping us understand how to be activists for our drinking water safety. As always, the public is welcome to attend.


By Ginny Barnes

Anyone living in the Washington metropolitan region who is not on well water drinks from the Potomac River. Yet the Potomac is also the final destination of our treated sewerage, runoff from rain storms, sediment from construction sites, and stormwater flow from roof tops, parking lots, driveways, and commercial areas. There is a saying among water quality activists "we all live downstream" so your wastewater may become someone else's drinking water. The chemicals on your lawn and the pesticides on your plants are eventually washed into the nearest stream and travel via gravity to the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have a well, as we do, you drink from the groundwater aquifer that utilizes water infiltrating through the earth but the same processes and outcomes apply. How we treat the land shows up in the water we drink. Chemical pollutants, fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture and residences leaches into underground wells. Our region faces a future where clean water is rapidly becoming endangered. There is a limit to how much tampering we can do to remove pollution from the water needed for life. The most effective water quality assurance is to keep pollutants out of our waterways.

How do we do it? With wide, forested buffers around wetlands, seeps, streams, and rivers. By strictly limiting the percent of impervious surface (buildings and pavement) concentrated in any particular watershed. It is a fact that watersheds with the high percentages of imperviousness are the most polluted. Most Montgomery County streams have been degraded to fair or poor condition. The aquatic life they support is limited and they may not even meet the State standards for “fishable and swimable.” Some can even pose dangers to pets and people who make contact with the water. Added to known threats are new concerns about endocrine disruptors, body lotions, and even artificial sweeteners showing up in water sampling. In the extreme headwaters of the Potomac River, George Washington National Forest has seen proposals to allow fracking at the very source of our drinking water.

As citizens, we must stand up and defend the waters we rely on to support life. In the next several months the County Council will decide the fate of Ten Mile Creek, now an emblem of the threat to our water resources. In the matter of a mid-river intake, we should be asking that Watts Branch not be abandoned by seeking a last straw in the River. If allowed, where will we go for clean water in the future?

Our community has learned from two years of fighting to save the Brickyard school site from soccer fields that bad decisions by public officials are hard to overturn. It takes public determination and persistence. Our sugarplum dream for our public officials, especially with 2014 an election year, is that they resolve to treat our waters with the utmost protection and that even under development pressure they put the health of our water resources above the profit margins of a few developers.


Two premium land acquisition recommendations funded through the Legacy Open Space Program (LOS) have been approved by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). The 35.23 acre Potter property and the 7.68 acre Weaver property it surrounds will implement Potomac Subregion Master Plan objectives and provide an important buffer to the mainstem of Muddy Branch and to a perennial tributary stream to Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park. These two acquisitions will expand a greenway corridor and have long been on the list of priorities designated by LOS as a Natural Resource Protection Area within the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park, Unit 1.


By Carol Van Dam Falk

Maryland Delegate Al Carr has offered to sponsor the 2014 Public Open Space (POS) bill which would prevent Public Open Space money from being spent on funding artificial turf (AT) fields in Maryland. Maryland Delegate Jef Waldstreicher is sponsoring the 2014 Tort Claims Act, which would expose counties and municipalities to the full legal liability associated with artificial turf fields. Because that liability is untested, and likely to be based on science, including known carcinogens such as Carbon Black which is ingrained in turf pellets, the hope is that counties will abandon new artificial turf fields and return to natural grass. The counties are expected to oppose the bill, as is the artificial turf industry. Environmental organizations will support the bill. The coalition is also working on defeating the 2013 Prince George's County "insanity bill", which is legislation that would mandate the installation of artificial turf at 21 Prince George’s public High Schools over the next five years. On behalf of the Coalition, I wrote a letter to Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr putting Starr and all Montgomery County High School principals with artificial turf fields on notice that we have repeatedly informed them of the environmental, health, and financial risks associated with artificial turf fields, so that if litigation does occur down the road, they can not feign ignorance. Some facts regarding an artificial turf field using tire crumb infill. On average, these AT fields can be expected to:

1) Contain roughly 120 tons of pulverized tires.

2) Create a mix of toxic gases and carbon black for young players to breathe, and add heavy metals, tire crumb, and plastic shards to storm water run-off.

3) Leach known carcinogens and heavy metals like lead, cadmium, zinc, arsenic, selenium and more. Tire manufacture is proprietary. Hence the complete contents are unknown. This data gap underscores the need to test tire crumb as a children’s product.

4) Require decontamination.

We invite all WMCCA members and the community to check out more information about Artifical Turf at www.safehealthyplayingfields.org.

Next Meeting

The public is invited to the West Montgomery County Citizens Association General Meeting on Jan. 8, 2014, at 7:15 p.m. at the Potomac Community Center. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

To change to an electronic version of this newsletter delivered via email, contact: membership@WMCCA.com.