Take Back The Anacostia
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Take Back The Anacostia Geo 150- Action Research Mackenzie Doss
The Anacostia watershed in perspective
The Anacostia Watershed Society176 square mile watershed covering Washington, D.C. and Montgomery and Prince George Counties in Maryland. Over the last several centuries, increases in farming and urbanization have altered the watershed. As weve discussed in class using Woods Creek as an example, Land use changes have led to flooding , erosion, sedimentation, destruction of surrounding wetlands, combined sewer overflows, toxic pollution, and a loss of river-based recreational opportunities. Particularly after WWII- the region experienced extensive deforestation and growth. The Anacostia is listed as one of the 3 most polluted tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. WHY?Loss of 70% of forestland/6500 acres of wetlands. Alteration of natural drainage patterns, discharge of raw sewage, dumping of toxic industrial wastes and trash creating persistent toxic hot spots, expansion of impervious surfaces. 2Impediments to the AnacostiaHow storm water affects all of these (worsens)3Fecal bacteria
Anacostia River Keeper (anacostiariverkeeper.org)Estimated that an average of 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage mixed with storm water flows into the river annually
1/3 of D.C. is still served by combined sewers
DC Water (Clean Rivers Project): $2.6 billion long-term control plan over the next two decades.
NOAASewage from homes and businesses during dry weather conditions is taken to the D.C. Wastewater Treatment Plant at Blue Plains. There, the wastewater is treated to remove pollutants before being discharged to the Potomac River (DC Water and Sewer). However, when the capacity of a combined sewer is exceeded during storms, raw sewage is discharged into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers as well as tributary waters as combined sewer overflow (CSO).
High levels of fecal coliform bacteria indicate the presence of disease-causing bacteria/other pathogen. Result of human/animal waste conveyed to the river from leaking sewer pipes, unfiltered storm water, and DCs combined sewer system. Diagram illustrates how the system overflows every time there is a sigificant rainfall- estimated that it is dumping raw sewage into the river an average of 80 times a year. Occurs in such abundance that the river is designated unsafe for swimming at any time. Currently, CSO accounts for more than 60% of the rivers bacterial contamination.
Uncontrolled storm water runoff carries other pollution with it fertilizers, animal wastes, pollutants from impervious surfaces, nutrients that cause excessive growth of algae/ deplete oxygen. This uncontrolled flow causes stream bank erosion/sedimentation. The Anacostia Watershed contains 10 times the sediments of any other Chesapeake Bay tributary. About 85% of the sediment is trapped because of the rivers sluggish flow, remaining in the water for an average of 23-28 days.4
Fred Pinkney, USFWS
TOXICSAnacostia=heavily urbanized resulting in an increase in contaminant loads such as trace metals, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). Numerous studies have documented elevated levels of chemical contaminants in sediments, surface waters, and fish tissue throughout the river and their impact to fish and benthic biota and PCB/PAHs stood out for their toxicity/widespread distribution.
PCBS: used as coolants, lubricants in transformers/electrical equipment. Banned but bioaccumulate and still found in abundance. Carcinognic. PAHs: generated through combustion of organc material like wood/coal Like PCB, PAHs can bind with the sediment of river bottoms and enter the food chain through sediment dwelling organisms and bottom-feeding fish. PAHs and their metabolites have been linked to excess tumor rates in bottom-feeding fish in the Anacostia like the brown bullhead catfish
6 known toxic sites along river identified by EPA, 4 of which are point sources of PAHs/PCBs. Pepco Benning Facility (industrial), Poplar Point- land transfer from the NPS to DC- contaminated by navy yard. Kenilworth Landfill- dump extended into river with no barriers for 20 years and other industrial facilities
. Both the Atlantic sturgeon and short nose sturgeon, mainstays of Anacostia fishermen, had disappeared. Channel catfish, an introduced species, increased in abundance during the 1970s with elevated levels of PCBs and chlordane: more than 50 percent of brown bullhead catfish caught in the river had liver tumors and 37 percent had skin tumors5Trash
An estimated 20,000 tons of trash and debris enter the watershed annually.
Highly visible problem 20,000 tons of trash/debris enter the watershed annuallyMain source of problem= illegal littering/dumping An EPA report identified plastic bags, Styrofoam, snack wrappers, bottles, and cans as 85% of the trash in the River while plastic bags make up nearly 50% of trash in its tributary streams (EPA). Pictures of the polluted Anacostia were even featured on National Geographics website under the title Threatened Freshwater Environments (National Geographic- picture on cover page).
6Where : The restored Kenilworth Marsh along the AnacostiaWhat :Keynote speakers Michelle Obama/Eleanor Holmes NortonWalking tour of the marshTrash pick-up Other Activities Include (excerpt from letter): Passing out reusable bags to District residents to lower the impact of plastic bags;Providing short youth-oriented water resource and pollution educational lessons;Introducing residents to our website that keeps track of Anacostia clean-up efforts;Teaching residents how to conduct monitoring and recording pollution indices;and talking about future ideas for community clean-up events
ACTION: Take back the AnacostiaOutreach and educationWho :Congressional and agency officials, local businesses, D.C. residentsThe restoration of 33 acres of tidal freshwater marsh (kenilworth marsh) serves as an important example of restoration along the Anacostia. Historically, tidal freshwater marshes helped buffer the river from the expanding urban environment but population pressures overcame its ability to process/trap excessive nutrients/sediments. Dredging operations deepened the river channel and threat of illness from sewage in the marshes led to the diking and filling of the wetlands. The Kenilworth Marsh (connnected to the Anacostia in northeast D.C.) is one of the last unfilled marshes. Managed by US National Park Service. Restored in 1993
Speakers: impact of trash on river/communitys environmental health AND commemorate the benefits of restoring a natural habitat. Letter appeals politically to Michelle Obama because of Lets Move! Initiative- getting kids outdoors, etc. in an urban environment Made my own non-profit Take Back the Anacostia- a regional alliance of conservation organizations dedicated to the health of the Anacostia
In addition, to letter- attached a Fact-Sheet that would go to Obama/Holmes-Norton, congressional officials (reps and their offices), businesses, and community members (this is the science of the project) and its topics were covered through the 3 impediments to the river.