Anacostia River

Around the Water Cooler: Rivers offer food and fun (but only when clean)

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

This week, a colleague handed me the City Paper with an article about how thousands in the Washington, D.C. metro area eat catfish caught locally in the Anacostia River. The article saddened me for a variety of reasons. Mostly because fishing in our rivers, especially urban rivers, brings with it a host of public health concerns. Quite frankly, with combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff flushing pathogens and chemicals into them, many of our rivers are kinda dirty. Yuck.

But despite the health advisories and warnings that consuming fish from the river can be hazardous to health, many people still do it. The article highlights a survey (partially funded by EPA, other government agencies and stakeholders) conducted to study fishing in the Anacostia  and determine the extent of consumption and sharing of fish from the river; awareness and attitudes among anglers about potential health risks; and, strategies for lessening the consumption of contaminated fish.

The study shows that the reasons people fish in the Anacostia are extremely complex, and are mostly related to economics and culture.

The good news is that EPA is working with local officials and stakeholders in Washington, D.C.  to clean up the Anacostia so it can be fishable and swimmable again. Earlier this year the Anacostia River Revitalization Fund was established.  The fund, which will invest $1 million in restoration activities this year, with a total goal of investing $5 million over the next three years, will be used to protect and restore the Anacostia River and to create a national model for watershed conservation. The National Fish and Wildlife Fund, in partnership with EPA and the DC Department of the Environment and with funding from corporate sponsors, created the fund, which will award grants to local partnering organizations.

In addition, EPA scientists have developed a variety of tools and models to look at ecological exposure.  This research on water is spread over several areas: detection, assessment, function, and outcomes so that we know what our water has been exposed to, can assess it and ultimately ensure that it is safe for drinking, fishing and even swimming .

The Anacostia River watershed is just one of many that need our help and attention to keep it clean so that it can once again be a source of food and recreation that we can be proud of.

To help protect your watershed, learn more here.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research team and a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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It’s All About Connections

By Reginald Parrish

Growing up in Central Virginia, I spent many hours enjoying the natural landscape of the region. A favorite past time was fishing along the banks of the James River just north of Lynchburg. I recall being puzzled about why we were told to under no circumstance eat the fish. Still, the river provided a tranquil and relaxing spot — an integral part of our community.

In 2000, I accepted a position as EPA’s Anacostia River community liaison. The Anacostia River is a heavily polluted river that flows from Maryland and traverses the nation’s capitol, bordering historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I conducted outreach to “east of the river” communities about how to improve the quality of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. As I met with citizens, it became clear that these communities have more pressing concerns than restoring the Anacostia River–joblessness, housing, schools, public safety and economic development. As on the James River, I met many people on the Anacostia who fish as a pastime and consume the fish regardless of warnings.

EPA’s Urban Waters program reconnects populations with their local urban waters to accelerate the restoration of these waters. Over the past several years, EPA and other federal agencies have promoted citizen engagement in hands-on restoration through grants for education and outreach programs for schools, churches, and communities. The Anacostia is also one of seven pilot locations of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports and advances other community priorities, such as education and jobs through environmental activities. To further this goal, EPA is renewing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide environmental training to at-risk youth with the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC). EPA and ECC are part of a broader local effort by Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Greenworks, Groundwork Anacostia, Living Classrooms, Washington Parks and People to make the restoration of the river relevant to community priorities – by leading youth to green skills and green jobs.

I participated in this program and had a very successful experience with Anthony Gregory who later received an internship with the National Park Service. Anthony is currently still engaged in work on the Anacostia and is excited about working to improve the river. Anthony’s experience is just one of a number of experiences that connect people to their places through ECC and EPA. I am happy to be a part of that experience.

About the author: Reginald Parrish is an urban programs coordinator based in EPA’s Region 3 Chesapeake Bay Program Office

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.