|Montgomery County DEP takes sample of red water that drained into a|
Little Falls Stream tributary from a stormwater pipe that runs beneath
downtown Bethesda (Courtesy: Steve Martin/DEP)
Saturday, April 28, 2012
COAST GUARD, EPA, HAZMAT TEAM INVESTIGATE RED SUBSTANCE FLOWING THROUGH PIPE BENEATH DOWNTOWN BETHESDA
COUNTY, STATE, FEDERAL AUTHORITIES
RESPOND AFTER STORMWATER UNDER
BETHESDA - AND LITTLE FALLS STREAM -
TURN RED THURSDAY
ANOTHER ROBERT DYER @ BETHESDA ROW EXCLUSIVE!!!
Several Bethesda residents were startled Thursday when a tributary of Little Falls Stream turned red.
Some reported their discovery to the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.
The tributary is near the Bethesda Pool between Bradley Boulevard and Little Falls Parkway.
According to Steve Martin of the DEP, agency employees were on the scene before 4:00 PM Thursday. Based on their experience, they believed it was a harmless dye used often to test pipe flows. However, they conducted several tests to be certain. Tests for typical stream pollutants were all negative. They found no ill or deceased wildlife in the water.
One or more citizens who had noticed the red substance called the National Response Center of the EPA. As a result, members of the Coast Guard, EPA, and a Montgomery County Hazmat team rushed to the scene, as well. All agencies eventually reached the conclusion that it was a dye.
Friday, they checked the outflow north of the pool, and it "was clear," Martin said. It turns out the pipe that empties into the tributary runs underneath Arlington Road, as far north as Hampden Lane. Agents checked the water at Hampden Lane and found it was clear there, too.
After some further investigation, the DEP has concluded that the red substance came from a commercial or residential building in downtown Bethesda, between Hampden Lane and Bradley Boulevard. Martin said it will be difficult to determine exactly which building was responsible.
Authorities seem satisfied that there is no danger to the public or wildlife. However, the conclusions did not seem to include a definitive identification of the red mystery substance. Did you notice the red water anywhere in the Little Falls watershed? Are you satisfied with the DEP explanation? Leave your comments below.
There doesn't appear to be any evidence that the substance is toxic so far. However, there are many known and unknown pollutants in the Little Falls stream. Personally, I would advise people to not make contact with the water in this, or almost any other stream in Montgomery County. And that includes pets, as well. There are a variety of natural and chemical pollutants, and in some cases, sewage contamination. Little Falls has been under a water advisory for excessive levels of bacteria on occasion.
I can recall seeing soap-like suds and bubbles in the Little Falls watershed on two separate occasions. What's that about? And sometimes there will be an odd smell, such as around the branch that crosses underneath River Road, just west of Willard Avenue.
So, enjoy the streams, but use common sense and practical precautions.