Anacostia

Commitment to Environmental Justice Leads Fish and Wildlife Service to Study Anacostia River Fishing

Cross-Posted from Fish and Wildlife Service’s Open Spaces

By Kim Lambert

Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Photo by Kim Lambert/USFWS

Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Photo by Kim Lambert/USFWS

Approximately 17,000 people, many African American or Hispanic, eat fish they catch out of the Anacostia River each year, and often share their fish with hungry people, according to a study commissioned by the Anacostia Watershed Society. But the watershed contains toxic hotspots caused by pollution such as PCBs, PAHs, metals and other compounds for local facilities.

As part of its commitment to Environmental Justice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Anacostia Watershed Society, University of Maryland College Park and the Anacostia Community Museum to study the patterns of urban anglers (subsistence, recreational and cultural) and fish contaminants in the Anacostia River region.

Environmental Justice recognizes that low-income or disadvantaged populations of color are often unfairly burdened by environmental hazards and unhealthy land uses, and may have higher exposure and health risks. And the Service collaborates with its stakeholders and partners to minimize or eliminate these hazards.

On a hot Saturday morning in July, the partners sponsored a fishing day as part of the Community-Based Assessment of Exposure for Subsistence Fishers in the Anacostia River Region (CAESARR), a study about people who fish or consume fish from the Anacostia River Watershed. The event was a fun opportunity for participants to learn how to fish, get information about the river and health issues, and catch fish for the project. About 45 people attended and the fish were processed for scientific research. Estimates on the amount of PCBs, metals, contaminants and pesticides in the fish will be issued to urban anglers when the study is done.

In many ways the river is a well-kept secret for the recreational opportunities it offers, including biking, paddling, and surprising beauty and solitude. “It is in our hands to protect our planet and these beautiful species living in it,” according the Sonia Banyuls of Spain, as she walked along the river banks. Lisa Peterson brought seven Boy Scouts to the event because it was a “great fishing opportunity and so educational for the kids.”

Dr. Sacoby Wilson, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says, “The human health consequences of high fish consumption by vulnerable populations in the Anacostia River and a highly contaminant watershed are important public health issues.”

Dr. Wilson adds that there has been limited research on fish contaminants in the region, so it hasn’t been possible to establish exposure and risk assessments.

In addition to the work of the partnership, the Service is completing a report titled Analysis of Contaminant Concentrations in Fish Tissue Collected for the Waters of the District of Columbia. For this project, the Chesapeake Bay Field Office sent 38 samples of fish from Anacostia and Potomac rivers for study for contaminant concentrations. The District will use the results to update the current Public Health Advisory, which warns the public not to consume bottom feeding species and limit their consumption of other species. The report will be available in about two months according to Fred Pinkney, of the Chesapeake Bay Field Office.

Beyond enhancing fishing safety, understanding exposures for these populations can help with the Anacostia revitalization efforts.

The Anacostia River flows from Maryland into the District of Columbia, where it empties into the Potomac River about one mile from the U.S. Capitol. The 8.4- mile tidal river is part of a 176-square-mile watershed that is home to roughly 860,000 people as well as 43 species of fish and more than 200 species of birds. The Service’s Environmental Justice Program website can be found at http://www.fws.gov/environmental-justice/.

About the author: Kim Lambert has managed the Environmental Justice Program for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2001. She serves on numerous environmental justice panels and boards. In 2013, Kim received a Proclamation from the Board of Directors of the National Environmental Justice Conference, Inc.

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.

Exhibit Alert, DC Area! Reclaiming the Edge

By Christina Catanese

Spending the holidays in the Washington, DC area?  Already checked out the National Christmas Tree and not sure what else to do with those holiday guests?  There is one celebratory exhibit you don’t want to miss.

Recently opened at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM), Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagementisan exhibition on the history, use, and attitudes towards urban waterways.  It was created in partnership between EPA,  watershed partners, and the ACM.

The exhibition focuses on the Anacostia River and its watershed, and how humans interact with this natural resource in an urban setting.  There are also examinations of how people engage with urban waters in other cities – including Shanghai, China; Pittsburgh, PA; Charleston, SC; Louisville, KY; Los Angeles, CA; and London, England – so we can share experiences in diverse geographies.

The exhibition includes an art installation created from trash and found objects which often find their way into urban waterways, historic boats used by Native Americans and contemporary fishermen, large-scale historic photographs of the watershed as the District of Columbia developed, and life-size cutouts of residents, community activists, and leaders in the watershed that tell the story of their connection and stewardship of the river.  And interactive portions of the exhibit will engage watershed residents of all ages and backgrounds.

There are also exciting events related to the exhibition, including art and nature workshops for students and teachers, community forums on various uses of the river, monthly films, and even water-inspired dance workshops. The diversity of these programs themselves is a testament to the potential of safe and clean urban waters, and the communities and activities they can inspire.

Even if the Anacostia is not your local river, it’s a perfect opportunity to consider how to re-imagine this urban river for community access and use.  Don’t miss the chance to learn about the history and current state of this watershed and how you can participate in its restoration and protection.

Not able to check out the exhibit during the holiday rush?  Don’t fret – it’s on display through September 2013, so there’s plenty of time.  Here’s how to get to the Anacostia Community Museum.

Let us know what you think of the exhibit if you check it out!  And tell us how you engage with and celebrate your urban waterways all year long.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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.

Balm Before the Storm

By Tom Damm
Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

When it comes to efforts to keep sewage, polluted stormwater and trash from reaching District of Columbia waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, the past few weeks in the nation’s capital have been quite eventful.

EPA was on stage for two major announcements in the District that will have a big impact in cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and Rock Creek, and improving the health of the downstream Bay.

The first event marked the signing of an EPA Clean Water Act permit that includes green infrastructure features designed to make the city more absorbent to rainwater – or “spongier” in the words of District Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tulou.

The second event signaled the start of DC Water’s massive series of underground tunnels that when complete will capture nearly all of the sewage overflows from the sewer system during heavy rains.  The project was prompted by a federal consent decree.

Both initiatives will not only promote clean water, they’ll also create jobs and improve the quality of life in the District.

With efforts like these, we’re looking forward to the day when one of the biggest concerns posed by a storm in D.C. is whether the Nationals game is played or not.

Stay tuned.

Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

Click here to view the DC Water project press release

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

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.

Revitalizing WETropolitan Areas

By Christina Catanese
2011-06-24_UrbanWaters_055

Have you ever wondered why development on edges of rivers so often seems to cut people off from the water, rather than giving them access to it?  In Philadelphia, when I walk across the Walnut Street bridge over the Schuylkill River, I sometimes wonder why rivers, the lifelines of our cities, are often under-utilized as a community resource.

Recently, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and leaders of other federal agencies were in Baltimore to launch the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, an exciting new federal partnership to help surrounding communities reap the environmental, economic and social benefits that living near a water body can provide.

Revitalizing urban waters stimulates local economies by helping businesses, promoting tourism, raising property values, and creating jobs.  Access to safe and attractive urban water resources can also improve the quality of life for people living in urban areas, especially in underserved communities.  The value that urban water resources can provide is enormous, particularly in difficult economic times.

EPA’s role in the partnership will focus on using science and the law to protect and preserve water quality and provide assistance in assessing and addressing the legacy of contamination. Learn more about how EPA is participating in the Urban Waters Partnership.

To begin its efforts, the partnership identified seven pilot locations. Two of these are in the Mid Atlantic Region – the Anacostia Watershed and the Patapsco Watershed – and each has strong restoration efforts underway.

The Anacostia River Watershed is one of the most urbanized watersheds in the country. It’s also home to 43 species of fish, over 200 species of birds, and more than 800,000 people.  Current initiatives in the watershed include planting trees, restoring urban streams, and education and jobs for DC youth.  EPA has been partnering with DC and Maryland to reduce trash in the river with the Anacostia River Trash TMDL (as you’ve heard about in our previous blogs).

If you live or work in an urban area, how do you see urban waterways being utilized…or not?  What’s your vision for how urban waters can play a role in our lives, environment, and economy?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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.

Talkin’ Trash

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel being constructedOne Mid-Atlantic community has a “trashy” idea. Salisbury, a small city located in eastern Maryland, recently installed netting devices designed to prevent debris from flowing into the Wicomico River. The Wicomico flows through the city and has had an issue with excessive trash. When rainfall occurs, trash and other debris is flushed into the city storm drains, which carries storm water and trash to streams, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. To resolve this problem, the trash nets fit over the end of the pipes, catching garbage before it flows into the river. They are tended by city crews and emptied periodically. The nets even have an overflow release function, which allows the nets to break away from the pipe if it starts to obstruct water flow. The net still remains tethered to the pipe so it doesn’t float away while water flow is restored. Salisbury was very pleased with the netting devices, and is planning to install more in the near future. Read more about this great way to limit trash flowing into the Wicomico River!

Other cities are getting even more innovative with their trash collection prevention.  The city of Baltimore installed a Water Wheel Powered Trash Inceptor which lifts the trash out of the water and deposits it into a dumpster. After heavy rains, the city noticed huge amounts of garbage floating into the inner harbor area which is a popular tourist destination. As was the case in Salisbury, the trash got there through storm drains causing an unsightly scene. The wheel is propelled by the current of the water body.  In the case of the Inner Harbor, the current was not strong enough to drive the wheel all the time, so solar and wind energy were employed to make the Water Wheel an even greener solution. The dumpster the trash is deposited into is enclosed in a shed which keeps trash out of view. Instead of having a long boom stretch across an area where trash gets stacked up, trash is filtered into the wheel where it is continuously lifted out of the water and into the dumpster.  Crews periodically empty the dumpster. The Water Wheel has been known to collect up to 7 tons of trash after one storm!

Trash in rivers and water bodies is becoming a bigger issue among communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. EPA worked with communities in the Anacostia River watershed to establish the first interstate trash pollution diet. The diet consists of limiting the amount of trash that can flow into the river. Click here to learn more about the trash pollution diet for the Anacostia River. Do any water bodies near you have an issue with trash buildup? What are some ways you can prevent garbage from getting into the water? Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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.

The field isn’t the only thing green at the Nationals’ Stadium

Nationals Park as seen from the Anacostia River. Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets were projected to save 3.6 million gallons of water each year.The San Francisco Giants were crowned the World Series Champions earlier this week, but if Planet Earth was crowning a champion, it would probably be the Washington Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are in their third season in their new home at National Park in D.C.  Nationals Park is America’s first green certified professional sports stadium.  Perhaps the stadium’s biggest fan is the Anacostia River.  The river borders the stadium and architects took special measures to reduce the impact that the stadium has on the river.  A 6,300 sq. ft. green roof was built over the concession area that will help reduce storm water runoff.  To prevent trash and debris generated at the stadium from reaching the river, screens were constructed in storm drains around the stadium to catch these materials.  Huge sand filters built beneath the stadium filter storm water before it is pumped to the public treatment facility.  The stadium also employs low flow faucets and dual flush toilets which save millions of gallons a year. 

The Nationals are hitting a homerun for the Anacostia River. What are you doing for your local river or watershed? Use the EPA website “Surf your Watershed” to find your local watershed and citizen-based groups that are making efforts to keep your water clean.

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.

Pick it up please — even if…!

By Nancy Grundahl

Is it my imagination or is there more trash hanging around outside these days than there was years ago? I was brought up to pick up any trash I happened upon, even if it wasn’t mine. The theory was that if everyone did, our community would always look wonderful — the “Keep America Beautiful” approach.

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society's River Trash Cleanup Event!

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society

I still try to pick up any litter I see, but often it seems like I’m the only one. I am amazed at how many people at my train station will walk by an advertisement that has fallen out of someone else’s newspaper, a soda can left on a bench, or those plastic straps used to bundle newspapers. And, it would only take a few seconds of their time. Gosh, there are trash cans right there!

Maybe they don’t understand where that trash can end up. It might be swept away to a nearby stream, affecting the quality of the water. That’s what has been happening in the Anacostia River watershed, part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 85% of which resides within Maryland and 15% within the District of Columbia.

Because of all the trash that’s been going into the Anacostia River it was designated as “impaired by trash” in early 2007, only the second river in the United States to receive this dubious recognition. An estimated 600 tons of trash and debris enter the river each year. There are trash cleanup days which really help, but wouldn’t it be better if everyone just took the few seconds every day to pick up the trash they see?

Is litter a problem in your community? What have you tried that has worked and what hasn’t? Please share your experiences.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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.

Shall We Gather At The River?

About the author: Lars Wilcut joined EPA’s Beach Team in 2004. He helps oversee EPA’s beach monitoring and notification grants to coastal states and territories.

A couple weeks ago I went to see a baseball game at Nationals Park, which has some great views of the Anacostia River. As I stood there gazing up and down the river, I thought about how nice it is to be on the water.

Lars Wilcut in a kayakI love kayaking, and I paddled the Anacostia even before I joined the Office of Water. From my experience with water quality standards issues, I know how far the river is from meeting its designated uses. I still like it, though. It can be so tranquil out on the water, despite the bustle on the other side of the tree-lined riverbanks. Often, I was the only person on the river, feeling acutely like everyone else thought the river was a nuisance and didn’t want to be on or near it. I didn’t think much about the river before I started kayaking. Once I did get out there, though, I began to value it as an important part of our community that I wanted to protect.

So, if I could come to appreciate the Anacostia, can’t other people as well? Building public facilities like ballparks along urban waterways is a big step toward getting people to value their local water resources. What a great thing to have people come out of the ballpark after a game and stroll along the river! When a city reclaims its urban waterway as a community gathering place and surrounds it with public green space and ballparks, those waterways become as much a symbol of the city as the local sports teams.

Through the water quality standards-setting process, we can all participate in protecting our waters. Standards help define what we want our waters to be used for and how we want to make that happen. The people I work with are an integral part of the water quality standards process: EPA reviews and approves state water quality standards to make sure they meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Here in DC, as I return to Nationals Park over the coming seasons, I’m hopeful that we’ll see an improvement in the Anacostia’s water quality; I know EPA will do its part. Then, the next time I’m out there paddling, I won’t be the only one on the water.

Find out about your state’s water quality standards, from EPA’s Repository of water quality standards.

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.