WMCCA: Watching Out for Public Health

WMCCA: Watching Out for Public Health

The Potomac Subregion was lucky that when it came time to revise our Master Plan in 2000, the county had just acquired GPS systems that allowed mapping of natural resources. We had the advantage of an Environmental Inventory showing streams, wetlands, forest canopy, accurate topography and soil types. We were the first Master Plan to use these new tools. Protection of the streams that lead to the Potomac River and the public drinking water supply drawn from Watts Branch became the solid foundation of the revised plan.

At the time, cell phone towers were just starting to be approved. We didn't know the dangers of common pesticides; not just to water quality but to those applying them. The county had only just started to monitor streams for temperature, pH, and aquatic life. The Countywide Stream Protection Strategy had just been published 2 years earlier, in 1998. Stormwater runoff has since proved to be one of the greatest threats to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Climate change was only beginning to be considered a threat. We were just beginning to realize the value of trees to water quality protection and carbon sequestration. Waste reduction and recycling were relatively new programs. Organically grown food was uncommon. There were no solar farms and the country ran on fossil fuels. We didn't have artificial playing fields and had not heard of synthetic turf.

Nearly 20 years later, the health hazards of stormwater runoff full of sediment and toxins, the loss of the ozone layer from burning fossil fuels, the dangers of pesticides and growth hormones in our food, and the risks, especially to children, of playing sports on fields laden with shredded tire infill containing lead, mercury, zinc, biocides, and other toxic chemicals creates new levels of concern. Synthetic fields have been around long enough to wear out and require disposal, creating tons of dangerous plastic carpet waste that now requires attention. Currently, this waste is being carted off to unregulated dump sites or incinerators. Thankfully, Maryland has introduced HB 1142, an effort to track and regulate the disposal of these materials.

WMCCA has long supported eliminating synthetic fields altogether and supports HB 1142. Carol Falk, WMCCA board member, submitted testimony on our behalf in support of the legislation. The following is an excerpt from her letter urging the committee’s support:

“The West Montgomery County Citizens Association (WMCCA) together with several other civic-minded organizations are deeply concerned about the failure of public schools and other institutions in Maryland to oversee the safe disposal of toxic materials contained in used synthetic turf fields. These plastic carpets and infill are composed of small pellets made from recycled tires that contain known carcinogens which often break down into a powdery substance that off-gas into the atmosphere, polluting the air we breathe, the soil we walk on, and the ground water which flows into our stream river valleys.

“The latest estimate from a leading synthetic turf trade organization is that 12,000 synthetic turf fields are in use across the country. We are encouraged to see that Maryland is stepping up to the task of tracking and regulating the disposal of these materials to protect our public health and the environment. WMCCA supports HB 1142 and asks that you favorably vote this bill out of committee.”

Sign on to the Sierra Club action alert on the Maryland bills to protect human and environmental health:

  • to prevent pollution from dumping of worn out synthetic turf carpets and tire waste infill; and

  • to promote funding for safe, healthy, natural surface fields and playgrounds instead of synturf: https://www.sierraclub.org/maryland/synthetic-turf

Next Meeting

Kathleen Michels, PhD, a neurobiologist and public health scientist, will speak at the next meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association on Wednesday, March 13, 7:15 p.m., at the Potomac Community Center.

Michels has been active in the environmental community since the 1990s. She helped start the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition which has worked to bring awareness of the health risks inherent in synthetic playing fields. Michels will discuss the health problems they represent and the additional concerns of disposal once these fields have worn out.

As always, the public is welcome to attend. If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

Potter Glen Preliminary Plan No.120190120 - Query Mill & Glen Roads. Re-2 Zone.

By Ginny Barnes

A proposal for five houses has been submitted to the Park and Planning Commission. The property is densely wooded with some wetlands and involves driveways on two Rustic Roads. The plan presents complications for two existing residences at the center of the property served by a gravel road not maintained by the county. The current plan could upgrade and use the existing road for at least two of the five driveways, however the developer does not wish to do so. The Rustic Roads Advisory Committee has been asked to weigh in on the driveway configuration. WMCCA has visited the site and is following the proposal closely.

Bumps in the Road and Signs on the Ground – Who Ya Going to Call?

By Barbara Hoover

If there’s something lumpy that makes your ride bumpy, or you missed that turn and just continued on cause that sign is gone … who ya going to call?

For County Roads contact the county. County Roads don’t have numbers. You can call 311 or file an online service request at https://www3.montgomerycountymd.gov/311/Services.aspx?SolutionId=-1. You must have the closest address or crossroads, with a good description of the problem. Think MacArthur Blvd., Democracy, Bells Mill, Tuckerman, Seven Locks.

For State Roads contact the state. You can file an online request at http://marylandsha.force.com/customercare/request_for_service. You must have the closest address or crossroads, with a good description of the problem. Think Wilson Lane (Rt. 188), Falls Rd. (Rt 189), River Road (Rt. 190), Bradley Blvd (Rt. 191). There are three types of roads maintained by the state:

  • Interstates

  • Roads with US Route #s

  • Roads w/ MD Route #s

Winter is ending, and that means lots of potholes and cracks in the road. It also means there are a lot of signs that have been knocked down by storms and snow plows. The state and county rely on residents to report problems, so don’t complain — report the problem.