Forum Focuses On Piscataway Creek Watershed Protection

Piscataway Hills residents are participating in a major initiative by the Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources to protect and improve the Piscataway Creek watershed.

Citizens from throughout the watershed area, which at 43,000 acres is the third-largest in the county, provided their ideas at a public forum at the Accokeek Library July 18. The session followed up a May public forum, where PHCA Vice President Dave Lishin had described dumping along Old Fort Road that was polluting the watershed. The situation was investigatedby county officials, who then displayed pictures of the trash at the July meeting.

County officials said the water quality of Piscataway Creek is considered “impaired” and that major goals of the watershed improvement project are to remove pollutants that exceed allowed levels, to restore the stream to its natural state, and to reduce stormwater runoff. Excessive pollutants in the free-flowing section of the creek are fecal coliform and other biological contaminants. The tidal portion, which includes the section near Piscataway Hills, is polluted by suspended sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus, according to the DER presentation.

Officials at the July meeting estimated that about a third of the fecal coliform in Piscataway Creek comes from wildlife, such as deer, and another third comes from domestic animals, including farm animals and pets. The remaining third is from human waste, either from sewage or septic systems. Suspended sediments come from soil erosion caused by excessive runoff, while nitrogen and phosphorus often come from fertilizers.

Potential solutions discussed at the meeting include improvements to existing stormwater management systems to reduce runoff, streambed repair, reforestation, wetlands restoration and creation, new controls on pollution sources, public education, and better enforcement against illegal dumping. Another meeting is planned for the fall but has not been scheduled yet.