Tag Archives: 2014

Newsletter – December 2014

December 2014


A BRILLIANT SUCCESS – WITH ONE EXCEPTION

President’s Letter – by Susanne Lee

The Potomac Subregion Master Plan has for the most part been a brilliant success story. Much of that success is due to the genius, commitment, and enormous hard work of Callum Murray, our December speaker who is retiring from his position with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) at the end of December. With its primary focus on preserving the areas extensive environmental resources, the Master Plan is an invaluable document and the key to the future of the entire Potomac Subregion and our individual neighborhoods.

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/plan_areas/potomac/master_plans/potomac/potomactoc.shtm

Everywhere we look we see the impact of its successful implementation: a two, not four, lane highway to Potomac; no outer beltway through Block House Point and the C&O Canal; the preservation of stream valley parks and rustic roads; the establishment of the Serpentinite Barrens Conservation and Greenbriar Local Parks; and, protection of the low density green wedge characteristics of the Subregion. That is not to say that we don’t mourn the acres of woodland lost to new construction or regret the McMansionization of established low density communities and the Castle-lization of others, or long for a more walkable Village and more bike paths. There are massive developments at the site of the Stoneyhurst Quarry site on River Road and at Forturne Parc on Montrose Road just west of I270, but the Master Plan provides for such concentrated development next to major transportation corridors, while protecting other portions of the Subregion. As a result of the Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program we sacrificed our last large farms (including the Clagett and Hanson farms) to higher density development as contributions to protect the Agricultural Reserve.

There is, however, one exception – the Glen Hills Sewer Study. Glen Hills is a low density, environmentally sensitive area, partially within the Piney Branch Special Protection Area, that functions as a critical recharge area for the Watts Branch. The Master Plan acknowledges its unique nature and seeks to protect it by limiting sewer extensions and their adverse environmental impacts. It calls for a study of the septic failures in Glen Hills to develop the measures necessary to ensure the long term sustainability of septic service for new home construction and existing home renovations, and to address the need for limited sewer extensions if needed. The Master Plan requires the study to include six basic elements, including the delineation and possible reasons for known failures. The study, however, was conducted by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, without regard to the requirements of the Master Plan, and with what appears to be little or no input from the M-NCPPC staff. Instead of identifying actual failures, studying the causes and proposing limited extensions to address them, the study ignores the plain language of the Master Plan and proposes sewering the entire area through the construction of 13 new, enormously costly and environmentally damaging, sewer lines. In the history of its implementation, there has been no other such blatant disregard of the Master Plan requirements.

Glen Hills Sewer Study submitted by Susanne Lee:

Representatives of WMCCA and the Glen Hills community will meet with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Council Member Roger Berliner on December 3, 2014 to voice their concerns regarding the conduct of the Glen Hills Sewer Study.

PESTICIDE USE RESTRICTIONS PROPOSED submitted by Barbara Hoover:

Montgomery County Council Vice President George Leventhal recently introduced legislation restricting the use of certain chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) that are dangerous to human health and are not necessary for a healthy, lush, green lawn. In addition to a wide range of human diseases and conditions linked to the chemicals, Leventhal cited adverse impacts on pets, wildlife (including pollinators), and our waterways. Bill 52-14 restricts the use of harmful synthetic lawn pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and others used for non-essential aesthetic purposes, on manicured grasses and certain County-owned properties. The proposal would still allow use of these products for agriculture and gardens, invasive species and noxious weeds, and golf courses. It also expands public notice requirements and requires the County to adopt an Integrated Pest Management Program. If passed, this would be a landmark ordinance as only two other local jurisdictions – Takoma Park, MD and Ogunquit, ME – have enacted similar restrictions.


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 working on.

Newsletter – November 2014

November 2014


SAVING OUR TREE CANOPY AND BIODIVERSITY

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 dplandry@pepco.com 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: http://www.safehealthyplayingfields.org

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 (www.wmcca.org).

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

Newsletter – May 2014

May 2014


Involve the Communities First – Early Public Notice and Input are Critical

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

One of the important functions of a citizens association like WMCCA is bringing the community in touch with decision makers early in any process that will create change. Development proposals, recently enacted legislation, and alterations to the zoning code need to be aired and discussed before rumors and misconceptions get started. In recent years some of the most contentious issues in our Potomac Subregion have resulted from the lack of public notice and failure to engage the community in the decision making process. The most distressing and costly of these blunders was the attempt to turn Nick’s Organic Farm on the Brickyard Road School site into a private soccer complex. Some years back there was a proposal for a Country Inn on a site across from the Water Filtration Plant on River Road that created a storm of controversy and was, like the Brickyard proposal, finally and wisely abandoned. Just before the Brickyard struggle, the Parks Department got in trouble over an unsolicited proposal for a privately run recreation center at Rockwood Manor. It is always wise to involve communities early and often when plans are first in the wind. It saves trouble, brings valuable feedback to any proposal, and most importantly, leads to a better outcome and product in the long run.

Montgomery County has one of the nation’s premier park systems and departments, with responsibility for more than 420 conservation and recreation parks on more than 35,000 acres of land, or 12% of Montgomery County’s total landmass. When it comes to parks and/or potential parks, citizens of our county are unusually passionate and with good reason. We have a singular piece of luck to be bordered by a well loved National Historic Park running the length of the C&O Canal. We have an abundance of local conservation lands like Blockhouse Point and the Serpentine Barrens. We have an excellent Regional Park called Cabin John. Many of the area watersheds are bordered by long stretches of Stream Valley Parks. We do not have as many small, local parks serving neighborhoods but some are in the pipeline, like Greenbriar Local Park. We love and use them all. We even take them for granted just as we do our low density zoning and limited sewer envelope. But we should not. We need to protect these givens and demand that stewardship be taken seriously. For information on our County Park system: www.montgomeryparks.org

Membership in the WMCCA is the best way of keeping up with and being part of any changes that will impact our daily lives. We need members and volunteers willing to serve our association founded here in Potomac over 60 years ago and still going strong. We invite you to join us, memberships are only $25 for individuals and $50 for families. Become part of a community organization that works to protect your quality of life here in Potomac. Please consider supporting WMCAA by joining when you attend our May 14th meeting or by going to our website, www.wmcca.org and clicking “Join Us”.

ENVIRONMENT PEPCO at it again. If you have seen tree trimming trucks, crews, and chippers on our local roads, it is because PEPCO is now into a four-year cycle of vegetation management. According to Jerry Pasternak, Vice President of the PEPCO Region, this is to meet Maryland’s Service Quality and Reliability Standards, known as RM43. The standards include pruning to a four-year growth beside and under most power lines. For high-voltage lines the required clearance is 15 feet below and beside the lines and blue sky clearance above. After witnessing denuding of steep slopes in the Glen and along many of our Rustic Roads, as well as complaints from neighbors on Lloyd Road, we seem to be facing a future of more canopy loss and increased stormwater runoff. Since PEPCO is not required to remove stumps, it also means limited areas for any replacement plantings as well as unsightly stump-lined roads.

ELECTION OF WMCCA OFFICERS AND BOARD:
 

The WMCCA Nominating Committee consists of George Barnes, Barbara Hoover, Barbara Brown, Shawn Justement, and Susanne Lee. The Nominating Committee proposes the following slate of Officers and Directors to the membership for a vote at our May 14th meeting. Nominations may also be made from the floor.

President: SUSANNE LEE
President Elect: BARBARA BROWN
Vice President: CAROL VAN DAM FALK
Immediate Past President: GINNY BARNES
Treasurer: GEORGE BARNES (TEMPORARY)
Secretary and Bookkeeper: BARBARA HOOVER
Newsletter: NANCY MADDEN

Directors serving second year of a two-year term: KATHY PETTIT, JOHN YASSIN

Nominees for a two-year term: ELIE PISARRA CAIN, BETSI DAHAN, ALISON MROHS, JILL PHILLIPS

Nominees for a one-year term: SHAWN JUSTEMENT


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 working on.

Newsletter – April 2014

April 2014


ARE WE ABANDONING WATTS BRANCH?

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

I’ve lived in a log cabin overlooking Watts Branch for more than three decades and watching it decline has been heartbreaking. As I write this, the Watts Branch is running bank full and chocolate brown as it swirls by on its way to the Potomac River. The largest stream watershed in the Potomac Subregion, it covers over 10,000 acres. Nearly all the headwaters begin in Rockville. It includes 680 acres of parkland, most of which is forested. MNCPPC initially purchased the unbuildable floodplains and steep slopes of many County streams to protect water quality and create buffers from adjacent development. Watts Branch has been intensely developed over a long period and the use of stormwater controls is recent. The result is that Watts Branch is what is known as a “flashy ” stream. In severe rain storms, it rises rapidly, filling and overflowing the stream channel. It subsides just as quickly after rain events. But uncontrolled run-off containing sediment and chemicals scours the banks, deepens the stream channel, and dumps a muddy plume into the Potomac River. It is this plume the WSSC wants to avoid with the proposed mid-river intake.

Proposed alternatives involve massive engineering efforts like 96″ intake conduits, tunneling or trenching in the riverbed, cofferdams, temporary access across, and dewatering of the C&O Canal. There are four alternatives, one of which is a “no action alternative”. The other three are variations on a theme of tunneling out to the middle of the the river to draw water where it is cleaner and less likely to foul operations at the filtration plant. There is no alternative that considers decreasing sediment loads to the Watts Branch. Why not? For twenty years the County has conducted stream monitoring and we know that if our streams pollute the rivers, they also eventually pollute the Chesapeake Bay. Are we going to abandon Watts Branch altogether without even one alternative that looks at improving it? How long can we expect to have the cleaner, clearer water further into the river if we do not address the sources of pollution coming into rivers from our streams? Watts Branch, like all our County streams, deserves better. And if we really want to maintain a healthy water supply for the future, there is a limit to how far out we can put that straw. In 20 more years, where will we go for clean drinking water?

PLANNING & ZONING:
Potomac Village – Bright view Senior Living, LLC and its parent company The Shelter Group have approached the owner of two properties on Falls Road, (10006 and 10008) near the River Road intersection and a parking lot now leased to the Post Office, with a proposal to construct a three story assisted living facility containing a minimum of 91 units.  An adjacent lot on Falls Road is being considered for inclusion in the development as well.  WMCCA will be following the progress of the proposal, but has initial concerns about the size of this institutional facility, parking, traffic impacts on an already heavily congested intersection, and current and future uses for the site.

ELECTION OF WMCCA OFFICERS AND BOARD:
The WMCCA Nominating Committee consists of George Barnes, Barbara Hoover, Barbara Brown, Shawn Justement, and Susanne Lee.


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 working on.

Newsletter – March 2014

March 2014


Why Should Potomac Care about Ten Mile Creek?

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

For several months the County Council has been grappling with a Limited Master Plan Amendment for Ten Mile Creek. The Clarksburg Master Plan, adopted in 1994, staged development in Clarksburg so when triggers were met on stages I – III, the last stage could not go forward without assessing impacts of the first three stages on Ten Mile Creek. Even twenty years ago, planners realized the high water quality of this stream; one of three that empty into the Little Seneca Reservoir which was built in the 1980’s to act as an emergency water supply in times of drought should the Potomac River flow drop too low to withdraw the massive quantities needed to supply our regional drinking water.

What does this have to do with our community? A lot. In the twenty intervening years, several scientific and technological advances have taken place that allow the County to look closely at natural resources, their interrelationship with one another and how these can inform responses to development trends. Under the Federal Clean Water Act, Montgomery County was compelled to develop a stream monitoring program in 1994. Until then, the County had not even put a thermometer in a stream to look at temperature changes caused by heavy rainstorms since the 1970’s. It takes time to gather and analyze scientific data from monitoring and see the trends. In the late 1990’s, GIS data also became available which allowed resources like forest cover, wetlands, biodiversity areas, and steep slopes to be mapped. With this tool, overlays were made to find sensitive areas containing one or more significant environmental features. The Potomac Subregion Master Plan Revision was the first plan review to make use of the new mapping and initial monitoring data. The environmental assessment of Potomac’s innumerable resources created the underpinnings for the final Plan, adopted in 2002. Subsequent water monitoring data shows that water quality in streams, starting in jurisdictions like Rockville and Gaithersburg and passing through our subregion on their way to the Potomac River, are improved by our low density zoning, considerable forest cover, and even by the way roads are constructed. Many have grass swales to capture and infiltrate runoff instead of sidewalks and storm drains to direct it. Our Master Plan provides a precedent for making decisions based on protecting water resources.

Ten Mile Creek is benefiting from our experience and from a full twenty years of monitoring data collected through the Countywide Stream Protection Strategy run by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Since the County Council work sessions on Ten Mile Creek began early in the new year, DEP aquatic biologists and regional water quality experts have provided Council members with scientific data that shows conclusively how levels of imperviousness from roads, rooftops, parking lots, etc. degrade streams with sediment and chemicals from runoff. Engineered stormwater techniques and facilities are not enough to protect highly sensitive streams. Since the DEP began evaluating the health of streams, biologists have mostly monitored ongoing degradation in streams throughout the County. They have learned the hard way that once a stream declines, it is unlikely to be brought back to health and attempts at restoration are far more costly than preserving our waters through sound land use and adequate forest buffers.

Ten Mile Creek is the highest quality stream we have left, a regional reference stream which scientists speaking to the County Council called “a jewel in the crown” of Montgomery County. It has become a rallying cry for clean drinking water and the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition, begun in the Spring of 2013, has grown to 30 organizations – all urging the County Council to protect our “last best stream” and place a higher value on water quality than it ever has before by lowering density on development sites while also implementing additional criteria like extended forest and wetland buffers. Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition proposed a more far reaching full protection plan, which the Council did not discuss. But they have been moved by public concern and a joint Committee is recommending a compromise plan that will allow development within the confines of much reduced impervious levels on three separate properties. In the coming weeks they will take a final vote and determine the future of the Ten Mile Creek watershed, Little Seneca Reservoir, and the sole source aquifer on which many up county residents depend. The question is: will it be enough, how will we know, and is such a compromise worth the risk?

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT: On February 14, 2014, the Potomac River keeper and Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed a Complaint in Federal Court against Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) for Illegal Discharges and other Violations of the Clean Water Act. The WSSC has dumped more than 30 Million Pounds of Sediments and Aluminum into the Potomac River in four years. At our January meeting, Potomac River keeper Matt Logan updated our membership on the hazards to the public water supply for over 4.3 million residents of the region. The water filtration plant on River Road in Potomac is the site of discharges named in the suit.


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 working on.

Newsletter – February 2014

February 2014


THE POTOMAC MASTER PLAN – 12 Years Old and Still Working

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

Potomac hugs the western edge of the County in a transition zone between the urban down-county and the rural Agricultural Reserve. Our Master Plan is firmly based on protection of the drinking water that serves over 4.3 million people in the region. Within the Master Plan boundaries are numerous streams that find their way by gravity into the Potomac River. Adjacent to those streams are even more seeps, springs, and wetlands that feed and recharge them with clean water and aquatic life necessary for a healthy environment. Through good planning, stream valley parks were established to help buffer and protect those streams but it is not enough. Potomac is designated a residential low density green wedge to limit impervious surfaces (rooftops, driveways, parking lots) that cause storm water runoff. The goal of our 2002 Master Plan Revision is to protect the subregion’s rich natural environment and unique ecosystems. In the 12 years since our Master Plan was adopted, we know a great deal more about the damage caused by even low levels of imperviousness. The struggle to save Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg has brought this issue into sharp focus and created countywide concern for the future of clean drinking water.

One of the protection tools used by any Master Plan is limiting sewer capacity. Installation of sewer in stream valleys causes environmental degradation and increases the potential for further, unforeseen development. WMCCA keeps an eye on individual applications for sewer. Currently we are also following progress on a Glen Hills Sewer Study, envisioned by the Master Plan revision as a way to comprehensively evaluate what limited sewer extensions, if any, should be allowed in this environmentally sensitive neighborhood. The study was not intended as a means to extend sewer wholesale and residents have rightly questioned how the study is being conducted. Why? Because Glen Hills straddles headwaters of two streams in the same watershed: Piney Branch and Watts Branch. Eventually these streams reach the Potomac at the intake of the filtration plant on River Road. We are back to the need to protect drinking water and the Chesapeake Bay.

Upholding our Master Plan is fundamental to WMCCA, assuring residents that the life they came to Potomac to enjoy will remain intact. Many communities without strong citizen oversight have seen their planning undermined with precedent setting decisions that destroyed and caused irreparable harm to communities they loved. Our Master Plan identifies sustaining the environment as the preeminent policy determinant in a subregion defined by its natural resources. We benefit from and enjoy riches here – an abundance of forest, stream valley parks, and the C&O Canal National Historic Park on our border with the Potomac River. Our geology alone is astounding. But we will not keep any of these treasures if we do not defend them. Like our drinking water, we can never take them for granted.

Parkland Update: One of the most geologically unique areas of Potomac is the Serpentine Barrens. Approximately 200 acres of it has been acquired as a Conservation Park through the Legacy Open Space Program (LOS). The park is bisected by Pepco power lines. After many years of negotiations, an agreement has finally been signed with Pepco to allow the trail crossings of the power line ROW through the Serpentine Barrens. This finally allows implementation of the management plan required of all LOS parkland. Now natural surface trails in the park can be planned and the process of creating public and educational access to this amazing natural resource can be realized.

Development Proposal: Lake Potomac Development – 11.06 acres, 11901 Stoney Creek Road, at the intersection of Stoney Creek Way. The property combines three parcels in RE-2 zone with stream buffers, forest, and steep slopes. There will be a presubmission public meeting on Thursday February 13, 2014 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm at Potomac Elementary School. The subdivision plan submitted to Park and Planning calls for five lots. The purpose of the meeting is to explain the plan, address issues, and notify those attending of their right to participate in the review process. Please attend as this proposal has environmental impacts of concern to our community.

Artificial Fields IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS Update by Carol Van Dam Falk January 9, 2014: Environmentalists disputed an EPA study that ground up tires in turf pose no health risks. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl is to be played at MetLife Stadium, where a new synthetic turf field from UBU Sports was installed last summer. Organizers were forced to replace the old synthetic turf field made by FieldTurf after only three years. In its glossy marketing brochures, the company claims 10 years is the normal life span of its artificial turf fields.

December 23, 2013The EPA acknowledges it is not entirely confident playground turf is safe for children, which makes one wonder how lawmakers and school administrators can determine that artificial turf is safe. The EPA writes, the “very limited nature” of the EPA study makes it “not possible to extend the results beyond the four study sites or to reach any more comprehensive conclusions without consideration of additional data.” We agree more research is a must.

October 29, 2013Actress Jennifer Beals is on our team! She led a Stroller Brigade for Safer Chemicals and Safer Playing Fields in Washington, DC to draw attention to the connection between toxic turf and questionable chemicals encountered daily by Americans. Beals said, I’m tired of debating school administrators about artificial turf fields with crumb rubber, those black pellets that get everywhere and anywhere and that contain lead polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons… I’m tired of reminding school administrators that what is good for a tire is not good for a child. I’m tired of hearing schools say, Well, the company says there’s only a little bit of lead in it. There is no such thing as an acceptable level of lead for children.

Maryland State legislators are working on gaining support for bills to prevent Public Open Space (POS) money from being spent on funding artificial turf (AT) fields in Maryland, erect warnings signs at AT fields on the dangers of playing on tire crumb especially on hot days, and to expose counties and municipalities to the full legal liability associated with AT fields. PLEASE GO TO www.safehealthyplayingfields.org for more information concerning the dangers of artificial turf fields and to how promote and support natural grass playing fields in your community.


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 working on.

Newsletter – January 2014

January 2014


Resolve To Protect Our Drinking Water

President’s Letter – by Ginny Barnes

Anyone living in the Washington metropolitan region who is not on well water drinks from the Potomac River. Yet the Potomac is also the final destination of our treated sewerage, runoff from rain storms, sediment from construction sites, and stormwater flow from roof tops, parking lots, driveways, and commercial areas. There is a saying among water quality activists “we all live downstream” so your wastewater may become someone else’s drinking water. The chemicals on your lawn and the pesticides on your plants are eventually washed into the nearest stream and travel via gravity to the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have a well, as we do, you drink from the groundwater aquifer that utilizes water infiltrating through the earth but the same processes and outcomes apply. How we treat the land shows up in the water we drink. Chemical pollutants, fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture and residences leaches into underground wells. Our region faces a future where clean water is rapidly becoming endangered. There is a limit to how much tampering we can do to remove pollution from the water needed for life. The most effective water quality assurance is to keep pollutants out of our waterways.

How do we do it? With wide, forested buffers around wetlands, seeps, streams, and rivers. By strictly limiting the percent of impervious surface (buildings and pavement) concentrated in any particular watershed. It is a fact that watersheds with the high percentages of imperviousness are the most polluted. Most Montgomery County streams have been degraded to fair or poor condition. The aquatic life they support is limited and they may not even meet the State standards for fishable and swimmable. Some can even pose dangers to pets and people who make contact with the water. Added to known threats are new concerns about endocrine disruptors, body lotions, and even artificial sweeteners showing up in water sampling. In the extreme headwaters of the Potomac River, George Washington National Forest has seen proposals to allow fracking at the very source of our drinking water.

As citizens, we must stand up and defend the waters we rely on to support life. In the next several months the County Council will decide the fate of Ten Mile Creek, now an emblem of the threat to our water resources. In the matter of a mid-river intake, we should be asking that Watts Branch not be abandoned by seeking a last straw in the River. If allowed, where will we go for clean water in the future?

Our community has learned from two years of fighting to save the Brickyard school site from soccer fields that bad decisions by public officials are hard to overturn. It takes public determination and persistence. Our sugarplum dream for our public officials, especially with 2014 an election year, is that they resolve to treat our waters with the utmost protection and that even under development pressure they put the health of our water resources above the profit margins of a few developers.

Parkland Update: Two premium land acquisition recommendations funded through the Legacy Open Space Program (LOS) have been approved by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). The 35.23 acre Potter property and the 7.68 acre Weaver property it surrounds will implement Potomac Subregion Master Plan objectives and provide an important buffer to the main stem of Muddy Branch and to a perennial tributary stream to Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park. These two acquisitions will expand a greenway corridor and have long been on the list of priorities designated by LOS as a Natural Resource Protection Area within the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park, Unit 1.

Artificial Fields Update by Carol Van Dam Falk Maryland Delegate Al Carr has offered to sponsor the 2014 Public Open Space (POS) bill which would prevent Public Open Space money from being spent on funding artificial turf (AT) fields in Maryland. Maryland Delegate Jef Waldstreicher is sponsoring the 2014 Tort Claims Act, which would expose counties and municipalities to the full legal liability associated with artificial turf fields. Because that liability is untested, and likely to be based on science, including known carcinogens such as Carbon Black which is ingrained in turf pellets, the hope is that counties will abandon new artificial turf fields and return to natural grass. The counties are expected to oppose the bill, as is the artificial turf industry. Environmental organizations will support the bill. The coalition is also working on defeating the 2013 Prince George’s County “insanity bill”, which is legislation that would mandate the installation of artificial turf at 21 Prince George public High Schools over the next five years. On behalf of the Coalition, I wrote a letter to Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr putting Starr and all Montgomery County High School principals with artificial turf fields on notice that we have repeatedly informed them of the environmental, health, and financial risks associated with artificial turf fields, so that if litigation does occur down the road, they can not feign ignorance. Some facts regarding an artificial turf field using tire crumb infill. On average, these AT fields can be expected to:

  • Contain roughly 120 tons of pulverized tires.
  • Create a mix of toxic gases and carbon black for young players to breathe, and add heavy metals, tire crumb, and plastic shards to storm water run-off.
  • Leach known carcinogens and heavy metals like lead, cadmium, zinc, arsenic, selenium and more. Tire manufacture is proprietary. Hence the complete contents are unknown. This data gap underscores the need to test tire crumb as a childrens product.
  • Require decontamination.


We invite all WMCCA members and the community to check out more information about Artifical Turf at http://www.safehealthyplayingfields.org.


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 working on.