Pass the Synthetic Turf Disposal Bill; Fight Airplane Noise Pollution
President’s Letter by Carol Van Dam Falk
This past week WMCCA wrote our state lawmakers calling on them to support SB 321/HB 131,“Synthetic Turf and Turf Infill – Chain of Custody,” which requires manufacturers and owners of synthetic turf and infill to maintain a chain of custody of its installation, reuse, repurposing, recycling, and ultimate disposal, and to report this information to MDE for posting on a public website. This bill has no down side; it protects citizens from being exposed to dumped turf fields which are known to contain carcinogenic material.
We know that 80,000 square foot synthetic turf fields have an average life span of 8 to 10 years and produce a significant amount of waste as they are made from 40,000 pounds of mixed plastic turf, most of which is used tires. Synthetic fields and infill contain aquatic and human toxins, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, and immune disruptors, including PFAS or “forever” chemicals. State officials keep no inventory of the number or location of synthetic turf fields across Maryland and have no idea of where the used fields end up, even though some of them have been dumped in woods or near waterways. In 2021, Sierra Club volunteers found 347 fields in 18 counties and Baltimore. They estimated the waste produced over the next decade for 328 of the fields, as they are replaced, which includes more than 67,000 tons of plastic carpet and infill, almost 123,000 cubic yards of infill, and 24 million square feet of plastic carpet, or 557 acres.
The fate of this incredible amount of toxic, plastic waste is nearly impossible to track. No documentation is required regarding how much, if any, of the material is repurposed or recycled or how it is disposed of. Many waste facilities do not accept synthetic turf waste because of its high volume, weight, and toxicity. When improperly disposed of and uncontained, especially near waterways, these materials pose untold risks to humans, wildlife, and the environment. We hope this is the year that Maryland paves the way for other states by becoming the first state in the nation to approve this important legislation.
This week we also wrote U.S. Members of Congress including Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen regarding the March 17, 2022 Aviation Subcommittee Hearing: Aviation Noise: Measuring Progress in Addressing Community Concerns. Aircraft noise continues to negatively impact hundreds of people in our community who were not adequately represented at the hearing. The only speaker (1 of 8) who spoke for communities was from the organization N.O.I.S.E. which does not represent Montgomery County. Airplanes fly directly over Cabin John and several other local neighborhoods, sometimes every 4-5 minutes in the mornings and evenings. The planes are so loud they drown out conversations on the street.
Studies have shown repeated exposure to aviation noise pollution is a significant public health hazard. It has been proven that aircraft noise pollution has negative health impacts on the cardiovascular system, including increased risk of strokes and heart attack. It also harms the endocrine and nervous systems, impairs cognition, and causes sleep disruption, anxiety, and depression. We urged the aviation panel to address the serious health impacts caused by aviation noise pollution, including amending the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 which stripped away all local control over aircraft and aviation noise. Alternatively, we called for Congress to give responsibility for regulating aircraft noise to the EPA, not the FAA, which has no experience handling health-related issues.
Heritage Gardens (CU2022-01) Submitted by Susanne Lee
No date has been set for the next and perhaps final hearing before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) regarding this conditional use application to construct a townhouse / senior care community on the 30-acre lot at the intersection of Norton and South Glen Road. OZAH has remanded part of the case back to the Montgomery County Planning Board staff to address the need for a traffic study. In the meantime, on March 23rd, Wormald, the applicant townhouse developer, submitted its proposed legal structure for the facility.
It still proposes what we believe is a bizarre arrangement in which this age-restricted senior living facility and the required conditional use will be owned by 46 different entities – the 45 townhouse owners and Wormald who will own the Lodge structure containing independent and assisted living and memory units. Sage, the actual provider of services, will not have any ownership interest or hold the conditional use.
On March 31st, the Hearing Examiner asked the applicant for further clarification of the proposed legal structure. She also referred the submission to the County’s Department of Permitting Services “to see if they have any concerns regarding enforceability of the conditional use given the multiple levels of HOA [Home Owners Association] and multiple conditional use holders.” The Greater South Glen Neighborhood Association (GSGNA) and the surrounding neighbors continue to work on a variety of issues including compatibility and the impact this massive development will have on the neighborhood and those using South Glen Road. If you would like to further support these efforts, we urge you to send donations for legal and consultant expenses to GSGNA at 11021 Dobbins Drive, Potomac, MD 20854, or by Venmo to @Neil-Goldman-9. GSGNA will provide a receipt for all contributions.
Glen Road Bridge over Sandy Branch near Glenstone Museum Submitted by Ken Bawer
Several questions arose after reviewing the “Glen Road Bridge Replacement” document prepared for Glenstone by Rocky Powell, et. al. dated April 22, 2021. What would be the purpose for the proposed upstream side cross vane and plunge pool? What would be the impact on movement of aquatic organisms (fish, etc.) up and down the stream? Is the extensive proposed left (east) bank protection (rock wall) really needed? Is the proposed upstream side “realign and shape channel for better entrance to bridge” really needed? This is a lot of engineering in a stream channel which would destroy the natural character of the stream and its riparian plant life. On the downstream side, why extend the plunge pool to the head of the downstream riffle? This would disrupt the current stream bed and its aquatic life.
Regarding the Rustic Road Advisory Committee letter of May 5, 2021 to Barry Fuss, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) which supports the proposed improvements to the upstream channel, the issue should not be visual enhancement. The primary issue should be the protection of the natural area. What is the impact of this project on the ecology of the project footprint? The beneficial effect on stream quality has not been established. We will relay our views to MCDOT.
2021 Water and Sewer Plan Update Submitted by Ken Bawer
DEP staff has prepared the 2021 triennial comprehensive update of the Water and Sewer Plan which it turned over to Executive Elrich’s office. After the Executive’s review and sign-off, the Plan goes to the County Council; a public hearing will follow. We are providing comments on a variety of issues.
For example, creating a septic system survey requires that it be initiated by a property with a septic system failure, but DEP can expand the survey area to include as many additional properties as they desire, even if these properties have no septic system failures. This loophole can result in numerous properties unnecessarily being granted sewer category changes from septic to sewer thereby promoting extension of the public sewer system in spite of the fact the WSSC sewer system spills enormous quantities of raw sewage each year (almost 8 million gallons of raw sewage in 2021). Aside from the environmental consequences of spills, sewer line extensions can lead to higher density development resulting in more impervious surfaces, causing more stormwater runoff that erodes our streams. We have asked that the Plan be changed so only properties with failed septic systems can be added to a survey.
We are also objecting to continuation of the peripheral and abutting mains sewer policies and multiple “special rule” changes that are inconsistent with the Potomac Subregion Master Plan and Maryland Smart Growth Statutes and are designed to benefit specific property owners who are otherwise ineligible for sewer extensions.
WMCCA NEEDS A NEW WEB ADMINISTRATOR! We have updated the website and are poised to turn it over to a new provider. Would you be interested in performing this important task for the organization? It would require uploading the monthly newsletter, the occasional testimony by Board members, community and environmental issues, etc. If you’re interested, contact us at email@example.com.
REMINDER: IT’S TIME TO JOIN OR TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP FOR 2021-2022! Your support is vital to our continued work. As a member you will receive our monthly newsletter and notices of our monthly meetings (October thru May), and we’ll alert you to issues that may impact you and fight with you to protect our “Green Wedge”.