What’s in the Water?
Sligo Creek Water Quality Meeting
The Water Quality committee – Anne Vorce, Pat Ratkowski, Paul Chrostowski – and guests – Mike Smith, FOSC President, Elaine Lamirande from the FOSC Stormwater Committee, Kit Gage from the Advocacy Committee, and Rachel Gauza from the Park Dept’s Aquatics Resource Management office – presented a fascinating glimpse into the state of water quality of Sligo Creek today and trends over time.
These speakers discussed many facets of Sligo’s water quality: pollution and the importance of FOSC’s citizen-powered Water WatchDog pollution tracking program, microplastic and persistent chemical contaminants, sediment pollution, chemical and Coliform bacteria loads now and trends, macro-invertebrates in the Creek, the impact of the increasingly powerful stormwater events in our area, and FOSC’s advocacy work.
We then opened things up for questions, observations, and suggestions on Friends of Sligo Creek’s water quality program.
Your comments on FOSC’s water quality programs are always welcome. We hope you will join us in working to protect and restore Sligo Creek. Visit the Get Involved page to learn about volunteering, joining and supporting FOSC.
— Pat, Anne, Paul, Dean, and Chris
Water Quality Committee (WQ at fosc.org)
Water WatchDogs (reportsligopollution at fosc.org)
Spotlight on: Microplastics in our waterways
The impact of microplastics is an important issue in Montgomery County where it is proposed for a section of Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. FOSC opposes the use of artificial turf on Ellsworth. See the Ellsworth Synthetic Turf page under the Current Issues page of the Advocacy tab for more information on FOSC’s concerns about synthetic turf.
FOSC Water Quality Committee volunteers have worked to create public awareness on the unseen impact of plastic pollution on humans and on waterways, including fresh waterways such as Sligo Creek. Dr. Jesse Meiller and Dr. Kathy Michels discussed the issue at a February 2020 talk sponsored by FOSC.
Scientists are finding that microplastics are everywhere in our waterways, whether salt water or fresh waterways. Ongoing research shows that most microplastics are harmful to living creatures and plants life due to their chemical content which does not break down (known as “forever chemicals”.) Synthetic turf is one example of a product that leaches such chemicals as well as plastic bits that are ingested by wildlife.
Report on: ARK/FOSC Summer Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program
Our summer volunteer Water Quality monitoring partnership
with Anacostia Riverkeeper, Corazón Latino, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek ended in mid September. The program was quite successful, with a variety of volunteers taking turns monitoring two sites along Sligo Creek, and five others in the Anacostia River watershed.
The Coliform results were disappointing. I don’t believe any site in the program ever met fishable or swimmable water standards during the summer, though not entirely unexpected given what our FOSC program has found over the years. I will share highlights from the full results on the WQ page shortly. FOSC has been invited to participate again next year, and I think ARK is hoping to expand the scope of the program to new sites and tributaries if possible.
— Pat Ratkowski, Water Quality Committee Chairperson
Ongoing Water Quality Committee programs
Volunteers for the Water Quality committee are also running several ongoing programs to help preserve and plan for the health of Sligo Creek:
Organizing teams to monitor the chemical and biological health of the Creek.
Partnering with area citizen organizations to expand the depth and breadth of our water quality program. This includes FOSC’s new 2020 summer volunteer water quality monitoring program, led by Anacostia Riverkeeper and in partnership with Friends of Little Beaverdam Creek, Corazon Latino and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Running the Water WatchDog program, which provides the public an immediate way to report water pollution as it’s happening to the Montgomery County Parks and Environmental Protection Deptartments who investigate and may issue fines. Volunteers keep records of contamination events to identify ongoing problems and help resolve them.
Educating the public through water quality presentations and monthly monitoring reports.
Generating support and advocating for state and local policies that will continue to improve the health of the Creek and its surrounding valley.
Wouldn’t it be great if the water in Sligo Creek were clean enough so that people could wade or swim in it without worry? The FOSC Water Quality Committee is working to improve the water quality of Sligo Creek so that it will meet its potential as a natural and recreational resource. While it is currently home to a surprising variety of wildlife, keeping the creek waters healthy for wildlife is an ongoing challenge as the region becomes more populated.
The Committee and FOSC’s members are working with local agencies and nonprofit organizations to meet the challenge, knowing that a healthier Sligo Creek both enhances our everyday lives and benefits the waters and wildlife of the Anacostia Watershed, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Are you interested in improving Sligo’s water quality?
Consider joining the Water Quality Committee!
The Water Quality Committee works on projects aimed at understanding and improving Sligo Creek’s water quality.
FOSC’s Chemical Water Quality Team regularly monitors seven sites along the Creek and its tributaries for ten different parameters, keeping track of the Creek’s water quality and the condition of its channel and surrounding habitats. Take a look at the Team’s summary findings in the sample FOSC Water Quality Monitoring Report in the right margin.
We also monitor macroinvertebrates for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Stream Waders program, the Izaak Walton League’s Save Our Streams program, and the Audubon Naturalist Society program.
We try to learn about and promote Sligo Creek monitoring being done by others, and when appropriate, use our findings to advocate for local, county and regional policy changes. Information about our activities is posted on the Friends of Sligo Creek newsletter and listserv. Join FOSC to receive the newsletter.
If you would like to join the committee, participate in Committee activities or have questions, please email Pat Ratkowski, Committee chairperson, through the Contact FOSC page or email WQ at fosc.org.
Coliform bacteria testing plate
The Sligo Creek Water Quality – Selected Bibiliography page contains further reading on Sligo Creek Water Quality.