Does This Mean No?

Does This Mean No?

WSSC denies Boswell Lane sewer line.

After 10 months of wrangling, the proposal to allow a sewer line to be extended to the R.A.M. Investing property on Boswell Lane may be defeated.

A lame-duck County Council approved a sewer-category change for a property on Boswell Lane last November without placing the item on the Council’s published or Internet agenda. Residents, particularly the West Montgomery County Citizen’s Association, were extremely upset about what they perceived as a back-room deal.

The category change which was approved violated both the Potomac Master Plan and the Piney Branch Limited Access Policy.

Council staff assert that the alignment they approved would be less damaging to the environment because it minimizes the amount of disturbance to the Piney Branch Watershed.

However, language in the category change may have been its undoing. The resolution (14-1516a) passed by the County Council states, “That in order for this project to proceed under the Council’s action, WSSC [Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission] must find the preceding sewer extension alignment acceptable.”

WSSC received a request to study the proposed alignment in June, said spokesperson Chuck Brown. The results of the study, noted in a letter dated Sept. 15, deny the approved alignment. “The grinder pump/pressure sewer alignment proposed by the applicant is not acceptable to WSSC, since there are gravity sewer options available,” states the letter.

“Our policy has always been, if gravity is an option, to go with it,” Brown said. “Our findings are for a gravity sewer along Boswell to the Piney Branch Trunk.”

The WSSC-preferred alignment would require 1,900 feet of 8-inch pipe, said Brown. The letter also spells out a potentially large environmental impact for the WSSC preferred alignment. “The proposed sewer main outfall will impact wetlands, stream buffers, 100-year flood plain and possibly large trees,” states the letter.

“Environmental Impacts is something we closely look at,” said Brown. WSSC wanted the applicant to be aware that there would be environmental issues to deal with in their alignment.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS are just one of the factors used to determine which alignments are preferred, Brown said, and the WSSC-preferred gravity sewer line does not necessarily outweigh potential environmental considerations. “It would have to be on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

According to the language of the letter and the Council resolution, it would also require a sewer-category change, which can only happen through Council action.

"If a condition of approval is not met, the approval is no longer valid,” said Keith Levchenko, legislative analyst for the County Council. However, he and Council staff had yet to review WSSC’s findings. “We have to verify that everyone agrees that a condition is not met,” he said.

The category change had also been denied by the Maryland Department of the Environment because it would violate the Potomac Master Plan. The county had yet to determine if they would appeal that ruling when WSSC’s findings were released.

Representatives of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, and R.A.M Investing did not return the Almanac’s calls by press time on Tuesday.

The issue may not be quite dead. The Warner property, which is located very close to the R.A.M. property, has applied for a sewer line because of a failing septic system. A public hearing for the Warner property is scheduled for Sept. 25.

WSSC’s preferred alignment for the R.A.M. property would take the sewer line past the Warner property. “It goes right past the house,” Brown said.