Systematically monitoring and recording the water quality of Sligo Creek, and educating the public about the importance of clean water for fish and wildlife

What the Water Quality Committee is Doing Now

How’s the Water? Webinar

Anacostia Riverkeeper (ARK) shared the results of the 2021 Summer Water Quality Testing Program in MD, a collaboration among ARK, FOSC, and NNWB. View the takeaways and the MD report on the ARK/FOSC Summer Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring page.

Citizen Science for Sligo: Summer 2021 Volunteer WQ Monitoring in the Upper Anacostia Watershed

Friends of Sligo Creek (FOSC) again partnered with Anacostia Riverkeeper (ARK) to help administer its second annual Upper Anacostia Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring program. This partnership, which also included Neighbors of the Northwest Branch (NNB) was funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Montgomery County. We offered residents interested in the water quality of Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch the chance to help track the chemical and biological health of these streams in a user-friendly way.

Every other Wednesday morning from June through September, volunteers measured water temperature, air temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen at five sites in the Upper Anacostia Watershed, including three sites along Sligo Creek:

  • near the Schuyler Road foot bridge at Sligo Creek Parkway;
  • at the Sligo Creek Parkway parking lot just downstream of Wayne Avenue;
  • in Takoma Park, at the confluence of Brashears Run and Sligo Creek near Maple Avenue.

Volunteers also collected water samples for further bacterial and turbidity analysis by ARK at its lab.

The FOSC data from the three Sligo Creek monitoring sites are on the FOSC Summer Volunteer WQ Monitoring Data page and on at beach/1055, beach/9615, and beach/9616.

In brief, the 2021 data indicate that while Sligo Creek is well-oxygenated and the water is clear, its coliform bacteria levels typically do not meet levels deemed safe for contact, and it carries a heavier dissolved ion load (it’s saltier) than we’d like to see in a freshwater stream.

ARK combines the data from the summer Upper Anacostia program with its other area monitoring efforts, providing agencies and administrators with a better picture of the ecological health of the Anacostia, including any trends that appear to be taking shape.

The data from all of the Anacostia tributary and main river sites is available on the Anacostia Riverkeeper website.

The program helps FOSC, ARK, NNB, and state and local agencies learn more about the chemical and biological health of our waterways – where the challenges are greatest, and where the improvements are strongest.

We hope the program will be renewed again in April, 2022. If you’d like to learn more about participating next year, please keep an eye on the Water Quality tab of the FOSC website, or contact the FOSC Water Quality team at [email protected].

— Pat Ratkowski, Water Quality Committee Chairperson

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 freshwater. 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 “forever” chemicals as well as plastic bits that are ingested by wildlife.

Report on: ARK/FOSC Summer Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program

Summer 2020
Our 2020 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 participated again in 2021, 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 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. The program continued in Summer 2021 led by FOSC, NNB and ARK, funded through the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Montgomery County.

  • 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 Departments 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

Coliform testing plate

Coliform bacteria testing plate

Water WatchDog link to report Sligo pollution
Water Quality Sampling Program

Sample FOSC Water Quality Monitoring Report

FOSC Chemical Water Quality Monitoring

Sample FOSC Water Quality Monitoring Field Sheet

FOSC Water Quality Monitoring Field Sample Sheet

The Sligo Creek Water Quality – Selected Bibiliography page contains further reading on Sligo Creek Water Quality.