Opinion: Letter to the Editor: West Montgomery’s Mistaken Assumption on Sewer Extension

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: West Montgomery’s Mistaken Assumption on Sewer Extension

I am writing this letter in response to the misinformation regularly put forth in the communications from the board of the WMCCA. Specifically, I'm referring to the phrase which has been used multiple times when discussing the sewer category change request from the Potomac Oak Shopping Center. It reads: “WMCCA opposes the request since it would set a dangerous precedent and encourage higher density development.”

What the association is referring to here is their mistaken assumption that a sewer extension of 3/4 of a mile or 1000 yards would encourage adjacent residential owners to press for lowering the 2-acre zoning in order to subdivide their lots or to connect their non-percable properties to this extension to maximize their density. (2 acres is currently considered the minimum area needed to support a residential septic system.)

This is false information for two reasons: 1) the shopping center's proposed extension would be a private, dedicated low pressure commercial use line, which cannot be connected to by adjacent residential customers, and 2) the 2-acre zoning is in place for another crucial reason: the need to maintain low density next to the Potomac River, to protect our county's main drinking water source.

It is my belief that more, not fewer, sewers are needed in the areas near the Potomac River watershed. As was stated quite clearly by Andrew M. Lazar, Statewide Water Quality Specialist who spoke to the membership of WMCCA recently, anything flushed down any drain into a septic field will eventually make its way down into the water table and on into the river. Removing high volume sewage produced by a long-standing neighborhood retail center by getting it off septic and into public sewer would obviously be an improvement.

If sewers were extended in our area to protect our groundwater, this would definitely not mean that area residences could increase their density, only a zoning change could facilitate that. The importance of limiting the amount of impervious surfaces (roofs, roads, driveways) so near the river and streams is paramount to protecting our groundwater and the water quality of the river. This principle may not be as easy to police as the two acre septic rule, but that does not lessen its crucial importance. The environment needs its green space surrounding the river to act as a sponge to absorb rainfall to recharge the water table. Development would obviously inhibit this.

The leadership of the WMCCA, of which I am a long-time member, needs to stop using inaccurate fear tactics to mislead the public, and re-dedicate itself to the truth that supports its aims, of controlling development near our river.

Ellen Gray Denker

Stoney Creek Road, Potomac, Maryland