As part of the tour, the guides discussed the history of the river, river ecology, and the many sources of Anacostia River pollution across the decades. The guides discussed toxins in the soil of the riverbed floor (including mercury, cyanide, carcinogenic PCB, among others), polluted tributaries, toxic hot spots on the river bank, storm water and sewage overflow into the river, and concerns related to residents eating unhealthy fish from the Anacostia River. While the state of the Anacostia River is sobering, many efforts are underway to address these significant challenges.
We had the opportunity to learn about DC Water's Clean Rivers Project and the tunnel boring machine which will eventually address the sewage, storm water, and other run off that flows into the river after heavy rains due to DC's combined sewage system. Trash traps have been installed on tributaries and the District Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) is conducting additional stream restoration. DOEE's RiverSmart program, which provide financial incentives to help District property owners install green infrastructure such as rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement, and shade trees, is also helping to reduce storm water runoff that harms the District’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Anacostia Riverkeeper recently filed a lawsuit against PEPCO for violating their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, discharging heavy metals into the Anacostia River.
In addition to our wonderful Anacostia Riverkeeper guides, special thanks to Aaron Holmes, Ward 8 resident and candidate for DC City Council, and Justin Lini, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Paradise and Parkside communities (ANC 7D07), for joining us and providing additional context to the river and its relationship to the surrounding community Mr. Holmes discussed the challenges related to under-resourced communities' utilization of the river and the impact of market pressures with the increased desire to develop our improving waterways. Mr. Lini discussed the PEPCO Benning site clean up and clean up at the old cooling towers.
To learn more about River Explorer Tours, go to the ARK's website. Tours are free and funded by DOEE.
Check out some of our photos below.