Ten Mile Creek is facing a big, new threat. In December, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) unveiled a set of possible sewer options to provide service to the limited amount of development allowed in the Ten Mile Creek watershed. The problem is that all of these options involve putting sewer pipes and pump stations alongside and/or in the creek, its tributaries and the environmental buffer areas established by the Montgomery County Council last April! Yes, you read that right -- sewers and pump stations in the very areas that the Council designated as off-limits to development because protecting them is critical to maintaining the health of the creek and the quality of water it delivers to the reservoir. Clearly, this is unacceptable, and we thank everyone who has already contacted the Council and County Executive to express your concerns. We want to work with all stakeholders to find a way to provide sewer service without putting sewer infrastructure in the creek, tributaries, or established buffers. Working together, I'm confident we can find a solution, but we need your support.
Here's how you can help:
1) Send an Email: Let WSSC, the Council, and County Executive Leggett know that the original sewer proposals are unacceptable and they need to undertake a thorough and transparent review of all possible environmentally-responsible sewer alternatives, and find a solution that keeps sewers and sewer infrastructure OUT of the creek, its tributaries, and its environmental buffer areas.
2) Attend a meeting of WSSC's Citizens Advisory Committee on the Ten Mile Creek Sewer Study next
Wednesday, March 25th from 7-9pm at the Upcounty Regional Services Center, Room A (12900 Middlebrook Road, Suite 1000, Germantown, Maryland). These meetings are open to the public, and we urge you to attend and show your continued support for the creek and reservoir.
3) Support Friends of Ten Mile Creek. Please consider joining us as a member, or, if you are already a member, making an additional contribution to support our on-going work to confront this new threat.
4) Learn more in this brilliant photo essay created by Friends of Ten Mile Creek Board member, Cathy Wiss.
5) Email us (email@example.com) if you know of an environmentally-minded sewer expert familiar with alternative sewer technologies (such as pressure sewers) who might be willing to advise
That's the cliff-notes version. If you want to learn more, please keep reading below. Thank you for your continuing support.
All the best,
Tenley Elizabeth Wurglitz, President
Friends of Ten Mile Creek & Little Seneca Reservoir
The Long Version - The Ten Mile Creek Sewer Issue In Detail
Not quite one year ago, on April 1, 2014, we celebrated a victory that came after years of determined citizen activism. On that day, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to protect the health of Ten Mile Creek by strictly limiting the amount of development allowed in its watershed. Specifically, the Council's decision - codified in the Ten Mile Creek Limited Master Plan Amendment - set science-based limits on the amount of impervious surface (roads, houses, parking lots, etc.) allowed in the watershed and it put certain areas of the watershed off-limits to development altogether. Buffer areas were established around the creek's mainstem, its tributaries, and other sensitive areas like wetlands, seeps, springs, and interior forest habitat. Those protections were not arbitrary. After listening to and studying extensive testimony by leading scientists, the Council decided that protecting those areas is critical to protecting the health of the creek and the quality of water it delivers to Little Seneca Reservoir. That was last April. And each and every one of you contributed to that victory.
Now, fast-forward to this past December. On December 17, 2014, WSSC unveiled a set of potential options for providing sewer service for the limited amount of development that the Council voted to allow in the Ten Mile Creek watershed. To our collective shock, all five of WSSC's proposed options involve putting sewer pipes and pump stations alongside/in the creek's mainstem, its tributaries and through the environmental buffer areas established by the County Council last April. In other words, sewers and pump stations would be built in the very areas we thought were protected by the Council's unanimous decision. It goes without saying that this would cause irreparable harm to the creek. (One of our Board members, Cathy Wiss, has created a photo essay detailing the short and long-term damage that could be expected should these plans be approved.)
Some have asked if this is a bad joke. Unfortunately, it's not. It means we have to continue fighting to protect areas we already thought - and were assured by elected officials - were protected.
That's the bad news. The good news is that TOGETHER we can do this and we are already making good progress.
Thanks to the incredible deluge of emails and calls that you made over the past few months, we've put the Council and County Executive Leggett on notice that WSSC's original sewer proposals are unacceptable. You raised your voices and the Council heard you loud and clear-people all across the region still care about Ten Mile Creek and we're not going to stand by and see our hard-won protections trashed. And that's important because the Council will ultimately have to approve or reject any sewer plan that WSSC puts forward. We need the Council to stand firm on their commitment to protect Ten Mile Creek. (See FoTMC Board member Scott Fosler's testimony to the Council in January )
While we are making progress in raising the alarm about WSSC's proposed alternatives, we also understand that to successfully fend off this new challenge to the creek's health, we can't just say no -- we have to be part of the solution. To that end, Friends of Ten Mile Creek Board members have been busy meeting with Councilmembers, WSSC leadership, and others to explain why we need to push the restart button on this whole process. We are asking WSSC and Montgomery County to start over and undertake a thorough and transparent study of all possible alternatives that could be used to provide sewer service to the limited amount of development allowed in the watershed, while still -- and this is the critical bit -- meeting the County's commitment to give Ten Mile Creek the "extraordinary protection" it deserves. In plain English, this means that we want to work with all stakeholders - local residents, developers and others, to find sewer alternatives that do not involve putting sewer pipes, pump stations, or other sewer-related infrastructure alongside or in the creek's mainstem, its tributaries or the environmental buffer areas established by the Council.
We also want to help the long-suffering residents of Clarksburg's Historic District find a solution to their urgent need for sewer service. As many of you know, most of Clarksburg's Historic District (located within the Ten Mile Creek watershed) lacks public sewer service, a fact that has caused significant problems for its residents and businesses. We strongly support the Historic District's property owners in their quest to gain sewer connectivity - and we believe it's possible to provide sewer service to the Historic District without causing damage to Ten Mile Creek.
We're certainly not sewer experts and we don't pretend to be, but we are good researchers, and we know there are alternatives to the conventional, highly destructive gravity sewer options that WSSC has proposed. One particularly promising alternative appears to be pressure sewer systems - a technology that WSSC has extensive experience with in Montgomery County (check out p. 17 of Cathy's photo essay ). And who knows, there may be other wastewater collection technologies out there that we haven't even heard of yet.
Ten Mile Creek and Little Seneca Reservoir are regionally significant resources that have been deemed worthy of "extraordinary protection." Shouldn't that translate into a thorough, transparent, and dare we say, "extraordinary" search for all possible sewer alternatives that will provide that protection?
We think so, and if you agree, here's how you can help:
1) Learn more:
One of our Board members (and Audubon Naturalist Society Water Quality Monitoring Program Coordinator), Cathy Wiss, has produced a brilliant photo essay detailing the short and long-term damage that would be caused by the sewer options that WSSC has proposed. There's also information about one potential alternative technology (pressure sewers) that may be a feasible way to provide sewer service to the watershed while still protecting the creek. Believe me, you're gonna be impressed!
2) Get inspired:
created by two Poolesville High School students, Allie Goldman and Danielle Roche. Enjoy and share with everyone you know!
3) Get Vocal: Email WSSC (firstname.lastname@example.org), the County Council (email@example.com), and County Executive Isiah Leggett (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please cc us at
Let them know what you think of WSSC's original proposals and tell them we need to find a way to provide sewer service while still protecting the creek. That means that WSSC needs to do a thorough and transparent study of all possible environmentally-responsible sewer alternatives, and find a solution that keeps sewers and sewer infrastructure OUT of the creek, its tributaries, and its environmental buffer areas. (Even if you've already emailed the Council, I'm sure they'd love to hear from you again!)
4) Stand With Us: WSSC has convened a Citizens Advisory Committee to provide public input on the Ten Mile Creek sewer study. The Committee is composed of local residents, developers, and three of our Board members - Cathy Wiss, Anne James, and Jay Cinque. The committee's first meeting was in February and the second meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 25th from 7-9pm at the Montgomery County Government's Upcounty Regional Services Center, Room A (12900 Middlebrook Road, Suite 1000, Germantown, Maryland). These meetings are open to the public, and we urge you to attend and show your support for keeping sewers and sewage out of the creek and reservoir. We need to show WSSC and County leaders that people from all across our region still care about Ten Mile Creek and we're not going to stand by while our hard-won protections are trashed by sewers.
5) Email us immediately if you know an environmentally-minded sewer expert: We are urgently trying to find an environmentally-minded sewer expert familiar with alternative sewer technologies (such as pressure sewers) to advise Friends of Ten Mile Creek. (We've managed to learn a lot about sewer technologies in the last few months, but we're certainly not experts.) We are pursuing some leads, but if you know someone who fits the bill, we'd love to hear from you. Please email
6) Support Friends of Ten Mile Creek:
Our fledgling organization is working hard to confront this new threat to the creek and we could use your financial assistance. As I mentioned, we are actively seeking a sewer expert to advise Friends of Ten Mile Creek and we may need to pay expenses, which could be significant. Please consider joining us as a member, or, if you are already a member, making an additional contribution to support our on-going work.
Thank you for staying with us in this effort to protect our last, best creek. Together, we won a highly protective plan last April and I'm confident we can confront this new challenge and succeed. And who knows, along the way, we may even find new methods to provide better protection to other area watersheds as well.
All the best,
Tenley Elizabeth Wurglitz, President
Friends of Ten Mile Creek & Little Seneca Reservoir