Newsletter – November 2014

November 2014


President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

A very short cease fire may be at hand in the war of Pepco vs. the trees. Citing significant destruction and disruption to adjacent private property owners, State Senator Brian Feldman and Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner have asked the Maryland Public Service Commission for a two week stay on further tree cutting in the Potomac area until the Commission staff confirm that Pepco’s proposed activities are consistent with the Commission’s regulations.

WMCCA applauds the request. However, in addition, we all need to take steps to counter the impacts on local ecosystems from tree canopy and other habitat loss, not just at the hands of Pepco, but by deer browse and our own land development practices. Individual actions, lot by lot, taken and linked together, have proven to make a substantial impact on improving local biodiversity, even reversing the declining numbers of birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

There is also a growing science that promotes not just planting trees – but planting ones that promote the greatest biodiversity. The enormous tulip tree in my yard hosts just 21 types of caterpillars, but the oak hosts 537 species. Why would anyone want more caterpillars? Because, for example, chickadees need to bring 6,000 – 9,000 caterpillars to the nest to raise a half dozen chicks !!! As a result, jurisdictions such as Baltimore County now require that county parks be planted with large canopy trees, especially oaks, not ornamental and specimen trees.

We can maximize our own positive impact on biodiversity by planting trees recommended by scientists such as Douglas Tallamy at the University of Delaware. Surround our properties with canopy trees such as white oaks, red maples, shagnut, pignut, and mockernut hickories, American beech, and sycamores (the latter two are deer resistant). For conifers, try the Eastern red cedar. Also add smaller understory trees such as bottlebrush buckeye, pawpaw, wafer ash, and our native dogwood (Cormus florida) that supports 117 species of moths and butterflies in contrast with the Kousa dogwood that supports only a few insects. Other good understory trees include serviceberry, arrow wood, hazelnut, and blueberries.

NOTE THAT PEPCO HAS A TREE REPLACEMENT PROGRAM FOR PROPERTY OWNERS: one new tree for each one Pepco or its contractors remove. Contact Dan Landry at or 240-508-3591(cell) to request replacements. Even though Pepco removed massive canopy trees, it appears the replacement trees are limited to those that can be planted directly under the power lines – maximum height is 35 ft. But Pepco’s guidelines allow large canopy trees 50 ft from the lines and medium trees (up to 40 ft tall) so long as they are at least 20 ft from the lines. If you have planting space away from the lines, we encourage you to ask for large canopy trees or, at a minimum, for the understory trees listed above that improve local biodiversity. Fall is a great time to get outside and plant trees!!!

ARTIFICAL TURF UPDATE submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk:

Finally, we are making some headway. People here in Montgomery County and across the nation are listening to very real concerns about a potential link between cancer and synthetic turf. We have also drawn attention to the toxins in artificial turf as they relate to environmental pollution and the misinformation campaign being waged by the synthetic turf industry on the cost of maintaining artificial turf vs. natural turf. Most public high schools have bought the artificial turf campaign hook, line and sinker. They think they need artificial turf to have more playing time for their kids and reduce maintenance costs. Wrong! If natural grass is properly maintained, these fields can meet all the needs of local public schools and privately run playing fields.

On October 8th, NBC Nightly news investigated the alarming story of cancer and artificial turf.

Please take a minute to watch the segment at this link:

Thirty eight soccer players, 34 of them goalies, who grew up playing on synthetic turf have come down with cancer. Blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia dominate the list. Meanwhile, the mad dash to replace natural grass fields with artificial turf on area public school athletic fields continues. WMCCA raised these health concerns with Wootton High School administration officials before they pushed through a move to replace natural turf with a plastic carpet to the tune of nearly $1 million dollars-all to no avail. The same thing happened with Churchill High School officials.

The Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, of which WMCCA is a member, has provided testimony citing peer reviewed studies that echo the findings in the NBC report, but more research is needed. In response to the NBC report, the EPA agreed, saying more testing needs to be done, but so far has not committed to conducting those tests. For more information, visit the web site at:

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT submitted by Ginny Barnes:

Bill 41-14 – Expanded Polystyrene Ban – The County Council has introduced and held public hearings on a bill to further prohibit the use of polystyrene foam, a petroleum based plastic which does not break down, is harmful to the aquatic life in County streams, and contributes significantly to the waste stream. There are alternatives to using it that are recyclable or compostable. WMCCA has written the Council in support of the legislation.

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 (

Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s