Skip Navigation
Roger Berliner banner
March 19 Update on Connecticut Avenue (and River Road) Water Main Break
March 19, 2013
WSSC and Pepco crews have been hard at work throughout the day repairing last night's water main break on Connecticut Avenue.  At this time, I wanted to advise you that one northbound lane of traffic on Connecticut Avenue is open, along with the regular three southbound lanes.  You may want to consider using an alternate route in order to avoid what are likely to be severe delays.


And if one water main break wasn't enough - a second one occurred late this morning at River Road and Newbridge Road in Potomac.  River Road is currently closed between Persimmon Tree Road and Bradley Boulevard, and, as I understand from WSSC, is likely to be closed through the evening rush hour.


First thing this morning, I wrote to WSSC General Manager Jerry Johnson asking for an immediate update on repair work.  Since then, I have spoken directly with Mr. Johnson.  In our conversation, I asked him directly whether the state of the art equipment that was intended to monitor this type of pipe -- pipe made of PCCP, which was the type of pipe that burst on River Road several years ago, had been installed on this watermain.  Mr. Johnson replied in the affirmative.  That response of course raises a host of other questions -- including whether the equipment installed was defective or whether WSSC failed to monitor it adequately.  They need to have answers, and Mr. Johnson appreciates the urgency of being able to share with our community their assessment of what went wrong.  I am scheduling a T&E Committee as soon as possible to provide a forum in which these questions and others can be aired and answered.  


Until then, please drive safe on your evening commute tonight, and remember that WSSC customers in Montgomery County are under mandatory water restrictions. These restrictions are themselves a consequence of another issue that needs to be addressed -- there has been a 96 inch main out of service since November.  It is the combination of that 96 inch main being down plus this latest break that necessitates the water restrictions.  Why the 96 inch main has been out of service this long is very  troubling in and of itself and a matter that we will certainly explore with WSSC at the hearing.


I wish I had a better report to share.  Regardless of the reasons, I nonetheless urge you to comply with the mandatory restriction so that there are adequate water reserves for fire protection and medical/hospital services.

WSSC Sewer Main Break
March 14, 2013
Brian Lewis/Gazette
As you may have read recently in the Washington Post, last Tuesday there was a serious sewer main break in Brookeville.  Ugly stuff was pouring out.  Despite this incident, WSSC has made assurances that the drinking water it provides will continue to be safe.

While I trust that WSSC is working diligently to identify and fix the problem, as well as contain the environmental impacts and protect public health, last week I sought further assurances and a report on what happened.  The situation is particularly concerning insofar as WSSC has a history of sewer related problems in the past and is operating under a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Consent Decree, which requires WSSC to complete a substantial amount of sewer infrastructure work by December 2015.


Indeed, many of you have reported seeing WSSC worksites popping up in their neighborhoods as they work to meet this deadline. That too has raised concerns in the community, particularly about the apparent lack of coordination between WSSC and our County as to timing of such work and the impact on tearing up our roads time and time again.  Legislation has been introduced before our Council to address that issue and we have asked our Office of Legislative Oversight to provide us a report and recommendations on that set of concerns.

Glenstone Sewer Request
July 31, 2012

Earlier this year, the Council received a sewer request from the operators of the Glenstone Foundation.  The Glenstone Art Gallery is a collection of abstract expressionists work that sits on a 200-acre estate in Potomac.


The Council considers sewer requests like this one very, very carefully.  The Glenstone request falls under the Private Institutional Facilities Policy, or the "PIF" Policy.  The PIF policy applies to non-profit institutions for properties outside the established water or sewer envelopes assumed in area Master Plans on a case by case basis.  The Council has considered dozens of PIF requests over the past 20 years and approved many of them.


The County's Water and Sewer Plan, of which the PIF Policy is a part, ensures that growth in the County is limited to where growth is appropriate. In the case of Glenstone, the owners have ensured that more than 40 houses that could have been built on the property will not be built. Glenstone actually reduces development. Moreover, neighboring properties will not be permitted to connect to the new service, in order to prevent unintended development as a result of the expanded sewer. In fact, the new sewer connection applies only to what is needed by the museum - the owner's private residence, also on the property, will continue to be served by septic.


The Water and Sewer Plan also helps protect the environment from the adverse impacts of expanded sewer service. The Council included a provision in the approval resolution requiring the applicant to stay within a 15 percent imperviousness cap for the the subject property in its required stormwater management plan to be submitted to the County. This imperviousness is far below levels for other PIF requests previously approved by the Council elsewhere in the county. Moreover, there really are arguments why a discrete sewer hook-up is better for the groundwater than large septic. While there was concern expressed about a stream crossing, the technology and sophistication of what is know as "horizontal drilling" makes it possible to protect sensitive streams, and the applicant is committed to doing just that. On the whole, I concluded, as did all of my colleagues, that this proposal is actually a net plus for our environment.


Finally, there were a number of people who expressed concern that this would set a precedent for future actions. In fact, the precedential nature of the decision is quite limited. Our Council concluded that Glenstone is an "existing" user and that limits the scope of the "precedent" a lot. But, to the extent that there are other applicants on existing sites that reduce development pressure, preserve and enhance our environment, and contribute to our County's quality of life, then this is a precedent I can live with!


The Council unanimously approved the request. It now goes to the Maryland Department of the Environment for final approval.  

FY12 Budget: Environment June 2, 2011

This year's budget will fund the expansion of our Department of Environmental Protection's stormwater management, environmental site design and water quality protection programs.  These actions should have a direct positive impact on efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. 


In addition, the County's new bag fee legislation will go into effect in January and is expected to raise $200,000 that will be deposited in the Water Quality Protection Fund.


I have been seriously concerned that the County was neglecting the protection of the tree canopy found on the County's right of way and thus is the responsibility of the County to protect and maintain.  Budget shortfalls in prior years necessitated significant cuts to this program.  Given the need to protect the lives and limbs of our citizens and to do our part to eliminate tree debris from disrupting utility performance it became prudent to move funds from the Street Tree Protection fund that engages block preventative pruning and use some of these monies for tree removal.  The County's back log of requests for removal of dead trees from the County's right of way had reached 1300 and counting.   $350,000 was shifted from the block pruning budget and an additional $350,000 was added to insure that dead and dangerous trees can be dealt with more quickly.


In order to continue a number of important efforts by the WSSC not the least of which is an aggressive large diameter water main inspection, repair and acoustic fiber optic monitoring program Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's charges were increased by 8.5 percent.  This will provided full funding for WSSC's FY12 operating budget and full funding for WSSC's FY12-17 Capital Improvements Program.  

Water Quality in Montgomery County January 27, 2011

Hexavalent Chromium Letter

Please rest assured that the drinking water provided by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to its customers meets all federal standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Late last year, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit advocacy organization, issued a report about chromium-6 levels in drinking water in the Untied States and cited Bethesda as having tested positive for this agent.  While chromium-6 has been banned as an anti-corrosive agent in industrial cooling towers, federal water standards do not distinguish between chromium-3 and the more toxic chromium-6. 


Given the concerns about our drinking water quality that the report raised, I wrote to Jerry Johnson, General Manager of the WSSC, to urge him to work with EPA.  Lisa Jackson, Administrator of EPA has issued guidance recommending how public water systems might enhance monitoring and sampling programs specifically for hexavalent chromium.  WSSC is looking at the EPA guidance and will be reporting back to me on their plans.

Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville MD 20850
Phone: (240) 777-7900 (voice) • (240) 777-7888 (fax) • (MD Relay) Dial 711 or 800-201-7165
Contact the County Council and Legislative Branch Offices