What's going on downstream from Burnt Mills?


Montgomery County has a gravity sewer system, which means that stream valleys, because they are low and slope toward the treatment plant, largely host our sewer lines.

But disturb any soil and it will more easily erode. That's what has happened in the Northwest Branch, leaving manholes and pipes exposed and leaking. 

The pollution led to a consent decree obliging WSSC to fix  the leaks.  Several sites were identified for remedial work along the NWB.  At this one, as our park engineers examined the situation further, it was clear the scope of work needed to be expanded, as did the time involved. 

Andy Frank, Environmental Engineering Section Supervisor at Montgomery County Parks, explained to a small group touring the site that the short 2-foot segments of the original clay pipes compounded the erosion problem. So many potentially leaking connections! New pipes will have much longer, more durable segments.

In some cases, rather than installing new pipes, WSSC will line existing ones without digging them up.  Sometimes also, it will tunnel new pipes down from the houses above rather than trenching, to avoid new erosion.

Pictures taken a few years ago illustrate some of the problems to be addressed in the NWB.  Pictures from October 2018 show how WSSC is protecting manholes by diverting tributaries and directing the mainstem flow away. In the process, it is enhancing the ability of the NWB to support aquatic life with new riffles and cascades.  

Post Script: The tour was organized by Kay Taub, an interested neighbor of the site.  Photos are by Anne Ambler, except as noted.

In Memorium


Charles (Charlie) Dorian (1946-2016)

 On September 24, 2016, the aquatic and terrestrial wildlife of our area lost an extremely valuable and knowledgeable friend. Charlie Dorian, just 69, passed away quietly surrounded by his family.

Charlie was a leader on the NNWB Macroinvertebrate Monitoring Team and other water monitoring teams through the Audubon Naturalist Society water quality program. He documented—with excellent photos—life in and around the water for that program and for the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas. His amazing photographs live on to educate the next generation of stream protectors. Charlie also volunteered with the Montgomery County Parks’ Weed Warrior and Forest Restoration programs. In the reforestation area between new and old Randolph roads, many young trees owe their survival to Charlie and his wife, Gretchen Schwartz, who participated with members of NNWB to cage vulnerable trees, saving them from deer predation.

Charlie held a B.S. degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the George Washington University. He retired after more than 20 years as a consulting engineer for Structural Integrity Associates, Inc., a mentor valued for his skills in chemistry, math, computer programming, and electronics.

Charlie was happiest outdoors, whether climbing mountains, hiking, cross-country skiing, fly fishing, bird watching, photographing nature, or wading in the Northwest Branch to collect and identify the bugs at the base of the stream food chain. And he was always willing to share his vast knowledge with others.  

Charlie’s interests, knowledge, and capabilities were too comprehensive to adequately present in this short Memoriam. Suffice it to say that his passing leaves a big hole in our environmental protection efforts. We will miss him. 

In Memorium


James (Jim) Fary (1943-2016)


Jim Fary, NNWB founding member and former President and Vice President, passed away at age 73.

Jim was born in 1942 in Chicago, Illinois.  At the University of Illinois he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to register African-Americans to vote. He earned a law degree from Catholic University in Washington DC.  Jim started his professional life teaching political science and American studies, first at Dumbarton College, then at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland. He later worked at the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining and finally at the EPA Superfund department that addressed the cleanup of toxic waste sites.

In retirement Jim was a passionate environmental activist whose contributions, in addition to his long tenure with the Neighbors of the Northwest Branch, included serving as the Conservation Chair of the Montgomery County Group of the Sierra Club, Montgomery County delegate to the Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee, and certified “Mud Buster” (trained by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to evaluate and report sediment runoff from construction sites).

Jim will be remembered for his intelligence, sense of humor, generosity, commitment, and passion for environmental causes. He enjoyed gardening, hiking, and recycling old appliances for scrap metal with his grandsons. He is survived by his wife, Nicole, two daughters, and several grandchildren. 

Graffiti Removal at Burnt Mills


 In Summer 2016, Jennifer Chambers started documenting the graffiti that  grew like cancer on the boulders in Northwest Branch Pack (at the fall  line below the parking lot next to the Trader Joe's plaza) to Montgomery  Parks and the Park Police.  Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Mid-Atlantic Climbers are  partnering with Parks to begin the long process of removing the  graffiti. Work was started at 7am, Sun, Aug 28
(7 hours, 5 volunteers).

In addition, Park Police are supposed to step up their surveillance of this part of NWB park.  

Read Jennifer's blog post to see the video and photos and get the story.