Geographically, the Potomac Subregion is the terminus of
several stream watersheds that empty into the Potomac River. These include:
Cabin John, Rock Run, Watts Branch, Muddy Branch and Seneca Creek. Watts
Branch is a large watershed which includes many smaller streams. The Kilgour,
Piney, Sandy and Greenbriar Branches empty into Watts Branch before it
reaches the Potomac and enters the River at the intake pipe for the Washington
Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) Water Filtration Plant on River Road.
Watts Branch is
major contributor to the public drinking water supply
for both Montgomery and Prince Georges County. The environmental
foundation of our Master Plan, including our zoning and restricted sewer service
is based on protecting this source of drinking water, the C&O
Canal and the other watersheds that lead to the
Some six years back, when
Fairfax County applied for a permit to construct a new water intake that
reached into the center of the Potomac River, the State of Maryland was enraged.
We accused Northern Virginia of greed and careless development that had so
fouled their shoreline with sediment the water could no longer be
adequately treated for drinking. A battle ensued over whether Md. could claim
jurisdiction of Potomac waters. The case reached the Supreme Court,
whose ruling led to permitting Virginia to withdraw water
from the center of the River. For many months thereafter,
construction of the Fairfax mid-river intake could be painfully seen
and heard from the C&O Canal at Seneca.
Now, the WSSC has proposed
a mid-river intake of their own, citing the sediment laden condition of
Watts Branch as justification. If you read their proposal, you think it is
the Watts Branch own fault it became too polluted to drink instead of Montgomery
County pushing growth and development at the expense of
the public water supply. The WSSC, while dutifully providing sewer and
water for increased development has done little to warn or defend the drinking
water it is also charged with treating. Unlike Fairfax
County, WSSC seeks to tunnel their intake pipe rather than dig a
channel but wants to use an adjacent, unnamed, forested island for staging, a
parking lot and permanent boat launch. This will impact Federal Parkland,
require significant deforestation and cause environmental damage to the
shoreline and the island. It all comes with a $ 126 million price tag.
District 15 Delegate Jean Cryor likens the process to strip mining. You make a
mess and then you move on. This is the cost of not
preventing stormwater pollution on our side of the Potomac River.
We come full circle to
the upcoming NPDES Permit renewal which provides the means to
strengthen water quality goals and requirements that prevent
pollution instead of avoiding it. If we are serious about restoring
the Chesapeake Bay, reaching into the middle of the Potomac for cleaner water is
not the answer. Besides, if this intake proposal is
approved, if we keep growing and creating
more sediment pollution, where is there left to go for clean
water when our children are adults?
postscript: WMCCA is working with our Md. Legislators to set up a
public meeting in Potomac with WSSC on their proposed mid-river
Environmental Report: Sewer Policy - Susanne Lee
Four Potomac requests for new sewer extensions are currently undergoing review before Montgomery County agencies. Our concern with all requests is ensuring consistency with the Potomac Master Plan. WMCCA testified jointly with the Glen Hills Citizens Association at a Planning Board hearing on January 26. We plan to continue our efforts as the County Council considers the cases at a hearing on March 14th with full Council vote expected March 31st.
Our Master Plan requires a study of the Glen Hills area in order to “develop a policy outlining the measures needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of septic service for new home construction and existing home renovations, minimizing the need for future sewer service extensions.” Because of negative impacts on the Watts Branch and Piney Branch that
would be caused by the further extension of public sewer, the Master Plan requires this unique, more thoughtful approach to meeting wastewater needs in this area. It also requires that the study be “conducted in conjunction with the citizens of this area.” WMCCA is requesting
active participation with the County Department of Environmental Protection in the design and implementation of the study.
Planning and Zoning - George Barnes
Seven Locks Elementary School - The Montgomery County Office of the
Inspector General has issued a report which states that the School Board
concealed cost data, misrepresented the wishes of the Seven Locks community and
followed inadequate procedures in the appointment of an architect for the
proposed Kendale replacement school. The report bears out the claims of
the Seven Locks community that the School Board has railroaded the proposal for
a replacement school on the Kendale site. Comparisons to the Clarksburg
situation have been made and it will be interesting to see how the Council
responds to the issue in upcoming budget approval hearings.
Chapel Rd. - An application has been filed to amend a settlement
agreement for a Forest Conservation Law violation for the property on the corner
of Chapel and River. The property owner seeks to amend the settlement
agreement, which has not been completely complied with, in order to build on the
Sutton property - This is the first subdivision plan based
solely on sand mounds as a septic alternative and serves as a
precedent we are watching closely. Ten lots have been requested on 25
acres. Sand mounds require significant space (approx. 3500 sq. ft.) and proper
siting. We are awaiting the perc tests required by the County to determine the
number of lots feasible.
Variance case, Rogers property - The Board of Appeals denied a
request for a 10 foot fence at the front of the property while granting other
variances requested by the property owner. WMCCA had testified in
opposition to the fence as we have in many similar cases.
Belvedere - an application has been filed to subdivide a four acre
lot in the Belvedere subdivision which lies between Glen Rd., Travilah Rd. and
Turkey Foot Road. The existing house would remain on one lot and a new house
constructed on the other.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Ginny Barnes, 301 762-6423
Newsletter - Lois Williams
The Newsletter is published monthly, and the Board of Directors meets each month. We welcome any suggestions for upcoming
meeting topics and ways to further utilize our web site (www.wmcca.org).
Check the web site for information on issues we are