Restoring a Stream, Restoring a Community

by Lori Reynolds

narsWhile I enjoy coming into the office and working side-by-side with my colleagues on water infrastructure financing, whenever I get the chance to get out and see how those funds are making a difference in communities and to shake hands with our partners, I jump at it.  Numbers on a ledger come alive in real projects helping real people.

I had that opportunity last Friday for the opening of the Nash Run stream restoration and trash capture project, located in the Kenilworth neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C.

Nash Run was a typical urban stream, impacted by stormwater flows, choked with trash, and a nuisance to the neighbors.   Besides trash and debris, stream flooding caused trees to fall and backyards to disappear into a muddy Nash Run.

In early 2010, the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) was contacted by local residents about the stream conditions.  Although a recognized challenge, DOEE shared the concerns and offered assistance.  It wasn’t long before a partnership and bond formed between the community, led by Ms. Katherine Brown, a block captain, and Josh Burch in DOEE’s Planning and Restoration Branch.

Over several years, community volunteers worked to remove trash from the stream and DOEE set out to secure needed funding.   Using funds from the District’s bag fee, DOEE began project design.   EPA provided federal funding for stream restoration and a trash trap with additional funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Trash trap on the Nash Run stream which captures litter, projects wildlife and improves water quality for the Anacostia River.

Trash trap on the Nash Run stream which captures litter, protects wildlife and improves water quality for the Anacostia River.

Although the funding is important and it made the project possible, it’s the heart and soul of all the people involved that made this enterprise a success story.  Josh Burch worked tirelessly getting easements along the stream and those residents remained involved and engaged throughout the project.

The opening ceremony was marked with words of appreciation and gratitude spoken by Ms. Brown and Josh Burch and words of congratulations expressed by EPA’s Region III Deputy Regional Administrator Cecil Rodrigues, as well as Amanda Bassow of NFWF.

As a long time EPA employee, it was a proud moment to be part of something so impactful.   At EPA, we work daily to protect the environment and improve public health, and it was evident that with this project we touched people’s lives.  There were many parents with young children in attendance at the ceremony.   In fact, it was the community members who gathered and cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Because of caring, dedicated people and government support, the children growing up in this neighborhood will experience a trash free Nash Run with turtles, fish, and frogs instead of tires and plastic bottles.  An investment was demonstrated, not only in a stream restoration project but in the people of a community who are committed for the long term.  The Nash Run stream restoration and trash capture project made a visible difference to this local community.

 

About the Author:  Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure.  She is naturally drawn to water, working in the Water Protection Division, swimming in pools and open water as part of a Master’s swim team, and as an Aquarius.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Tri, Tri, Tri Again for Clean Water

By Marguerite Huber and Dustin Renwick

From the left, cyclist Marguerite Huber, runner Dustin Renwick, and would-be swimmer Sarah Edwards.

From the left, cyclist Marguerite Huber, runner Dustin Renwick, and would-be swimmer Sarah Edwards.

When athletes register for a race, they invest money, time, and energy. My fellow EPA blogger, Dustin Renwick, and I signed up to be a part of a relay team competing in the Nation’s Triathlon here in Washington, D.C.

Dustin ran the 10k, I biked the 40k, but our swimmer didn’t even get wet.

Our teammate, and all of the other athletes, did not get to participate in the swim portion of the race because it had been cancelled due to unsafe water quality.

The night before the event, the local area experienced storms and heavy rainfall that caused a combined sewer overflow that sent a mixture of sewage and stormwater into the Potomac River just north of the triathlon swim starting line.

The District Department of the Environment informed race officials of the unhealthy conditions late that evening and due to the high levels of bacteria such as E. coli, they agreed to cancel the swim.

Although boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding are allowed in the Potomac River, “primary contact recreation activities,” like swimming, have been banned in the river within the District of Columbia since 1971, when District health officials and EPA sought to protect people and publicize the health hazards of local water bodies.

Since then, clean-up efforts have resulted in a cleaner Potomac. Special swimming events, such as the Nation’s Tri, could apply for exceptions to the rule as of 2007. Event organizers are required to monitor and analyze water quality samples prior to the event and submit a contingency plan in the event the District Department of the Environment determines the river is unsafe for swimming.

Despite the progress, sewer overflows can still harm river quality. The Nation’s Triathlon had to cancel the swim in 2011 as well.

Judging by social media reactions, most athletes felt the Nation’s Tri race officials made the right choice in cancelling the swim. Safety is important, no matter how many hours of training you have put in.

But the disappointment of several thousand athletes is only a symptom. This situation really calls attention to the need for improvement in our stormwater infrastructure.

The 772 cities in the U.S. that have combined sewer systems can all be challenged by heavy rains that rush over urban impervious surfaces and into their sewers. This results in stormwater and untreated waste polluting our water bodies.

EPA has worked to promote green infrastructure practices to help minimize and prevent stormwater events that can threaten public health, all while protecting the quality of rivers, streams, and lakes. Green infrastructure techniques such as green roofs, permeable pavement, and rain gardens help slow down runoff and help water more naturally filter out excess nutrients and other pollutants on its way into the ground.

These kinds of activities help protect human health and the environment. Hopefully one day soon, as race contestants, we can count on completing the bike, run, and swim through our nation’s capital and in similar events across the country.

About the Authors: When student contractors Marguerite Huber and Dustin Renwick are not biking or running through the District, they can be found helping the science communication and innovation teams (respectively) in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.