How’s Rock Creek?

By Mary Schollhamer

A hidden gem in Washington, DC is Rock Creek Park. Less than a mile from my home, Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre oasis, whose meadows and forest are home to coyotes, deer, foxes, raccoons, beavers, hawks, and – our newest residents – bald eagles.

Rock Creek Park is also home to the Rock Creek waterway, a tributary of the Potomac River. This is my dog’s favorite part of DC, as we rarely miss a weekend to play fetch in the creek. With the amount of time spent in the water, I often wonder: How safe is Rock Creek?

EPA’s tool, “How’s My Waterway?,” answers my question in just a few clicks, but the answer appears to be more cause for concern. Rock Creek was assessed in 2012 and failed water quality standards. It has flow issues, populated with bacteria and other microbes, degraded aquatic life, excess sediment, mercury, metals, PCBs, and toxic organic chemicals. For each of these pollution categories, “How’s My Waterway?”, offers links to technical reports – as well as plain language – and information about what I can do to help.

While Rock Creek’s current prognosis isn’t very good, EPA is taking steps to change that. You can use the How’s My Waterway? tool to find out many of the activities EPA takes to improve water quality in Rock Creek, like cleanup plans for mercury, metals, and bacteria and other microbes. Polluted runoff control projects, fish habitat partnerships, and community grants are also listed. The tool also gives a who/what/where/when for discharged pollutants, along with information on how to contact your state water quality program. Through transparent information about pollution and water quality, every citizen is empowered to get involved in the health of their waterway.

So, how’s Rock Creek? Not great, but it’s getting better. How’s your waterway?

About the author:  Mary Schollhamer is the Acting Deputy Director of Communications in the Office of Water. She holds a Master’s Degree in English with a focus on ecofeminism from Stony Brook University and loves dogs.

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