9814 Kensington Parkway

Kensington, Maryland 20895
13 August 2015
Water Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
Baltimore, Maryland
Via email:

re: Objection to NOI for Plan ID Number 273455, Reference Number MDRCP01VU
To Whom It May Concern:
I hereby object to the request by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to begin construction of a new middle
school on the site of Rock Creek Hills Local Park (RCHLP) under conditions of the General Permit for Stormwater
Associated with Construction Activity, and I ask the Department of the Environment to require MCPS to obtain an
Individual Permit.
Part III.3 of the General Permit states: “Discharges of stormwater … with known contamination by pollutants other
than sediment are not authorized under this permit. The following discharges are also prohibited: … Fuels, oils, or
other pollutants used in vehicle and equipment operation…”
MCPS proposes to direct all stormwater from the project site through a large diameter pipe and diffuser system,
across the narrow stream buffer area and directly into Silver Creek. Both during the construction period, and during
daily operation of the school afterwards, stormwater would wash sediment and toxic pollutants into Silver Creek,
then into Rock Creek, and ultimately, into Chesapeake Bay.
Burning fossil fuels in vehicle engines (and in power plants) produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a
class of toxic organic compounds known to cause cancer. PAHs and their metabolites are known to be highly toxic
at very, very low concentrations to a variety of both freshwater and marine fish and invertebrates, and their toxic
effects can be passed on to higher trophic level predators. Effects on benthic invertebrates include inhibited
reproduction, delayed emergence, sediment avoidance, and mortality. Fish exposed to PAH contamination have
exhibited liver abnormalities and tumors, cataracts, and immune system impairments leading to increased
susceptibility to disease. Even in small doses (parts per million), PAHs are “drawn like magnets” to fish embryos,
and the hydrocarbons that researchers worry about most are cardiac poisons - they disrupt the ability of developing
hearts to pump properly. Recent research has shown that street runoff, in particular, is even lethally toxic to
returning adult salmon. (References listed below)
PAHs and other toxic contaminants including heavy metals that are deposited from vehicle exhausts will be
transported in the stormwater flowing off the driveways and parking areas to be used by many school busses,
delivery trucks, and cars (parents and staff) on a daily basis. Much of the PAH-containing stormwater will be routed
into the planned stormwater system. After passing through retention ponds, PAHs will be discharged into Silver
Creek 75 feet below the school’s athletic fields. Additionally, PAHs will be washed off the school’s steep main
driveway (8% grade) directly onto Saul Road, from where they will also find their way into Silver Creek. The total
amount of such toxicants will be much greater than now, because of the very large increase in vehicle traffic
associated with such a large (1,200 student population) school.
The proposed construction would eliminate all the old growth forest covering almost one third of the ten-acre
building site (many hundred year old class trees, some over 165 years old), eliminating this mature forest’s
importance to wildlife. Polluted stormwater from the site would effectively also destroy the habitat value of lower
Silver Creek from at least Saul Road, to its confluence with Rock Creek, one half mile downstream. Both Silver
Creek and Rock Creek are “Waters of the United States” and are thus protected under authority of the federal
Clean Water Act. The two primary threats to these streams are: (1) Filling lower Silver Creek with sediment washed
off the construction site with every rainstorm for the next two years (turning Silver Creek into a muddy ditch all the
way to Rock Creek) and (2) Continuous loading of Silver Creek with toxic hydrocarbons washed from the school’s
driveways and parking areas.

As old-growth forest and other vegetation is removed for construction, rain will wash fine grained material off the
site’s steep slopes on three sides, the steepest being a drop of some 65 feet to the outfall. As it does now,
stormwater will flow from the site, down and across Saul Road, and into Silver Creek. Silver Creek will become
choked with silt, eliminating its wildlife habitat value.
Today, Silver Creek is a natural, winding stream characterized by a series of rocky riffles and pools, clear flowing
water with large trees shading most of its length. Riparian (streamside) forest is a haven for high quality wildlife, in
addition to the wildlife normally found in residential neighborhoods. The high quality of the riparian habitat along
Silver Creek is seen in the high quality wildlife it supports: yellow crowned night heron, little green heron, great blue
heron, wood duck, mallard duck, kingfisher, goldfinch, blue-gray gnat catcher, grackle, pileated woodpecker, downy
woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, great horned owl, barred owl, red tailed hawk, red shouldered hawk, sharp shinned
hawk, red fox, coyote, deer, raccoon, water snakes (Natrix spp.), beaver, and even nesting snapping turtle. This
quality assemblage of wildlife exists here because of the mature forest with many very large trees, and the fact that
Silver Creek is connected upstream and downstream to similar quality riparian forest, including that of Rock Creek,
which provides a continuous corridor for wildlife that extends downstream to the Potomac River in Georgetown, and
upstream to Rock Creek’s headwaters.
Will the various retention ponds to be positioned around the school grounds become breeding grounds for
mosquitoes? If so, will the solution be to apply pesticides, which will eventually be routed into Silver Creek with the
stormwater? That would also be toxic to most fish and invertebrates in the stream.
Toxic contaminants will have serious adverse effects on aquatic life in and around Silver Creek and Rock Creek.
And the damage will not stop “at the water’s edge.” These streams support a large number of terrestrial and avian
predators (and other wildlife) that require access to clean water and who feed on the streams’ aquatic life. Thus
toxic hydrocarbons will indiscriminately contaminate all levels of the food chain, from the lowest invertebrates to the
top predators. Once school opens however, the sediments in the Creek bottoms will also become laced with some
of the world’s most toxic chemical compounds. Nothing can live it that. And these contaminants will continue to kill
for years to come as additional polluted stormwater continues to flow off the school’s grounds and becomes
incorporated through adhesion to fine grained particles and organic matter in the Creek’s muddy bottoms. In the
same way, contaminants entering Silver Creek will also find their way downstream and adversely affect the water
quality and wildlife of Rock Creek as it flows toward the National Park.
In conclusion, MCPS’s application to use the General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity
for this project is clearly inappropriate, given the site’s location and its discharge of pollutants directly into Silver
Creek, whose water quality is protected under authority of the federal Clean Water Act. Accordingly, the
Department of the Environment should reject MCPS’s application to use the General Permit, and instead require
MCPS to obtain an Individual Permit. That Individual Permit application should include an environmental
assessment of the project’s ecological effects, and a comparably detailed analysis of less damaging alternatives
(including the Recommended Alternate Site designated by MCPS’s Site Selection Advisory Committee), to allow
full opportunity for public and agency review and comment.
Sincerely yours,
James R. Chambers
President, Montgomery County Board of Education
COO, Montgomery County Public Schools
Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board
Enclosure: References

PAHs in Stormwater Runoff
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tidal Anacostia River, Washington, DC, USA, Environmental Pollution, Volume 140, Issue 3, April 2006, Pages 416-426.
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Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) to Massachusetts Estuarine and Coastal Environments. Estuaries, Vol. 25, No. 2
(Apr., 2002) , pp. 165-176. Published by: Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
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Review. Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL
Bioeffects of PAHs
Bender ME, Hargis WJ Jr, Huggett RJ, Roberts MH Jr. 1988. Effects of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons on fishes and shellfish:
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Health and Env Effects Res Lab, EPA.
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