by Rebecca Chillrud
June 22, 2018
The Anacostia Watershed Society measured considerable improvements to the health of the Anacostia River in this year’s report card—another great reason to celebrate the Year of the Anacostia. The Anacostia received a 63 percent, or “D” grade, making it the first time the river has received a passing grade. This is an impressive increase from last year’s “F” grade of 49 percent and marks another year of the river’s positive trend.
More work is needed to achieve an “A,” as the Anacostia continues to struggle with toxic contamination and trash. Toxic contaminants in the river have been a problem for years and threaten the health of humans and wildlife. While there has been progress in toxics research, there has been little cleanup to date. Actions like installing trash traps and plastic bag fees have been part of trash reduction efforts in the Anacostia region. There has been some improvement, but there is still a long way to go.
While there is still work to be done, the report card also highlights signs of progress. Standouts include the 100 percent score for underwater grasses, up from a score of zero just four years ago. While significant year-to-year fluctuations are normal for underwater grasses, this is still a great sign of improved ecosystem health. There were also improvements in indicators like fecal bacteria and chlorophyll-a, likely due to reductions in sewage.
Researchers anticipate that these scores will improve even more in the future, due to the completion this year of D.C.’s Clean Rivers Project Anacostia Tunnel. The project was designed to reduce sewage overflows into the Anacostia by more than 80 percent.
The Anacostia River runs through Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C., making partnership key to the its recovery. “This announcement is great news and represents what can happen when you have the committed regional partners who worked together to make changes,” said Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County Executive, in a press release. “When we signed an agreement to work together to revitalize the Anacostia River a few years ago, it was more than a ceremony. We understood that the Anacostia River is vital to the health and welfare of our residents and we must remain vigilant and dedicated to improving its water quality.”
Overall, stakeholders are optimistic about the river’s continued progress. “[This] announcement is a victory for 25 years of citizen activism and government leadership.” said Jim Foster, President of the Anacostia Watershed Society. “Swimmable and fishable is within our sight, and we are committed to getting there for the benefit of everyone who lives, works and visits this community.”
Learn more about the health of the Bay’s rivers.