In everyone’s life, there should be a stream, river or lake that provides a special place for recreation and rejuvenation. Unfortunately, many aquatic ecosystems across the country have been degraded to the point that they make the communities that depend on them less healthy. Today, March 22, is World Water Day. The Anacostia Waterfront Trust would like to take this opportunity to make a plea for the forgotten river in our own back yard.
After centuries of neglect, the Anacostia divides Washington DC, and may well be poisoning her children. Lots of people recognize that the Anacostia has a trash problem, but the challenge is much deeper than that. Toxic chemicals from past industrial uses are trapped in the bottom sediments. Bottom-feeding fish like catfish ingest the chemicals, and are then caught and eaten by thousands of residents. Moreover, every time it rains the river is further inundated with polluted stormwater.
These are tough problems, but not impossible. Today, many individuals, politicians, and organizations have recognized the environmental problems plaguing the watershed and committed to do something about it.
We know what needs to be done. Those responsible for legacy pollutants trapped in the river must be held accountable to clean them up. Also, public and private investment should be directed toward infrastructure such as rain gardens or green roofs that are designed to trap and treat polluted stormwater runoff before it reaches the river.
It will take time and money to save the Anacostia, and the city is already at risk of missing its own clean water targets, but imagine the possibilities.
On pleasant Spring days like these, families from all over the city could congregate around the river. Children could learn to fish, swim, row and sail in the gentle, safe Anacostia while their parents enjoy the benefits of a world class waterfront at the heart of the Nation’s Capital.
Washingtonians need to unite around the dream of a clean Anacostia. On World Water Day, stand up for DC’s forgotten river. Help the Anacostia Waterfront Trust and its partner organizations to make sure that the promise of the Clean Water Act—swimmable and fishable waters for all—is met in the next few years.