Volunteers carry bags of trash collected along the river trail to a sorting site on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, at Anacostia Park in Washington. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tom Brenner

Environment USA28. June 2024

Forgotten River Gets Much-Needed Clean-Up

One “forgotten river” is slowly getting cleaned up after decades of pollution and neglect.

“Twenty-five years ago, it was one of the most polluted rivers in the country,” explains Chris Williams, director of the Anacostia Watershed Society. Over the past few years, however, “the water quality is pretty steadily improving,” says Williams.

Washington D.C.’s Anacostia River, smaller and less famous than the Potomac, was used as the municipal dumping ground for industrial waste, storm sewers, and trash for many years. Due to the unsafe levels of E. coli in the water, swimming in the river has been illegal since 1971. However, thanks to a $3.29 billion sewer upgrade project implemented in the D.C. region in 2018, large amounts of waste have been kept out of the river in recent years. This system is expected to reduce waste overflow into the river by up to 98 per cent. Moreover, in recent years, hundreds of volunteers have shown up to pick up trash from the riverbed manually. Locals are seeing positive changes in the Anacostia River – a waterway that may soon be swimmable once again.

AP News

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