For this report, we look at modeled pollution data from the Phase 6 Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool (CAST). The gasses coming out of the smokestacks combine with moisture in the air to form acids. Agricultural runoff is also a main source of EDCs in the Potomac. Here are the basics on three lesser known pollutants plaguing the Potomac and how you can take action. But the 383-mile river wasn’t always in such bad shape. [Walk over to the map and point to it while saying,] Let’s take a look at a map of the state of … MICHELLE LUBERTO/THE HOYA 50 years after President Johnson instigated efforts to clean up the polluted river, the Potomac remains tainted by the District’s sewage. It […] Rain also washes litter directly into the water or into storm drains. Dramatic before-and-after photos showing how freshwater mussels cleaned a tank of badly polluted Potomac River water in a matter or hours are encouraging signs … Researchers have found more than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River - an area that was once so badly polluted it was called a 'national disgrace' by President Lyndon B. Johnson. PHOTO BY DAVE HARP/BAY JOURNAL. Six states and the District of Columbia must meet their pollution reduction goals by 2025. The cleanup plan includes goals for the reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in the Potomac and other Bay rivers by setting a pollution limit, called a total maximum daily load (TMDL), by state and source. What can be done to remove EDCs? This has improved the water quality of the Potomac dramatically. According to the Potomac River “Report Card” the Potomac Conservancy releases every two years, the health of the river has declined from a “B” to a “B-” rating. What can be done to prevent channel erosion? As time passed, and the water became polluted, and 5th grade students poured pollutants into the bowl to give everyone a visual on their effects on the river. The Mississippi River is beset by polluted runoff from industrial agriculture, and the Chattahoochee, also on the endangered list, easily has issues equal to the Potomac… Researchers have found more than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River - an area that was once so badly polluted it was called a … We’ll keep you updated on local river news, wildlife, and fun outdoor events. Nutrient and sediment pollution continues to decrease in the Potomac over the long term, but short-term trends show mixed results. This kind of pollution frequently affects the Anacostia River and Rock Creek, and can affect the adjacent segment of the Potomac. "Who Polluted the Potomac?" Refer to the Methodology section below for an update to the sediment target. Human population growth impacts water sources because . The Potomac River watershed ‒ the area of land that drains to the river ‒ covers 14,670 square miles across four states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C. More than half of the Potomac River watershed is forested. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment are top pollutants found in the Potomac River and its tributaries. They hunted in the forests, harvested foods from wetlands, and caught fish in the river. There are a variety of ways that pollution occurs in a river, but there seems to be excess pollution in … Though PCBs have not been manufactured in the United States since they were banned in 1979, they are still polluting our rivers and streams decades later because the chemicals do not break down easily. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances that can affect the body’s endocrine system, which is responsible for reproduction, growth, development, and other important bodily functions. But what about pollution sources you haven’t heard of? Significant rains cause the pipes to back up, and a mixture of sewage and storm water that normally goes to a treatment plant backs up and discharges directly to a waterway or river. Support river friendly development that protects green spaces and uses permeable pavements and nature-based solutions to stop runoff before it reach streams and creeks. Thumbs down filled the room. Ahead of the next report, we will assess the new sediment target and the methodology by which the Committee arrive at this new goal. Unfortunately, much of what our local rivers and streams experience is excessive channel erosion, which can have harmful effects on water quality and wildlife. Poorly planned development increases the amount of pavement and decreases the amount of natural land cover. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls stands in the North Branch of the Potomac River at the wastewater outfall that served the Luke, MD, paper mill owned by Verso Corporation. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful. Good we made progress since then. For example, many permits do not require daily monitoring for TMDLS’s (total maximum discharge limits), allowing much higher amounts of pollutants to enter the water as would otherwise be the potomac's on the mend, but not in the clear Our hometown river is in the middle of a comeback and is cleaner than in decades past, but it remains too polluted for safe swimming or fishing. USGS non-tidal flow normalized testing observed 4.02 million pounds of phosphorus in 2018. Imagine that the jar of water in front of you was taken from the Potomac River by a Native American about 500 years ago. Based on data from 2018 and 2019, heavier-than-average rainfall likely played an outsized role in the outcome, too. There’s been some serious momentum in the fight against pollution lately. Data sets for some indicators takes time to become publicly available, so … Sediment levels are improving in the long-term (since 1985) but have been relatively stable in the short term (since 2007); in the last two years, sediment levels have been on the rise likely due to higher than average annual rain totals. Streambank erosion occurs naturally as streams and rivers wind their way across the landscape; however, excessive erosion threatens water quality, habitat, and public health. The EPA tracks the flow of pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by using modeled estimates of pounds per year saved by best management practices (BMPs). The river is … Improvements in agricultural land practices over the last two decades have resulted in decreasing concentrations of pollution from rural areas; however, excess nutrients and sediment from polluted urban runoff is increasing over time and threatens to undo decades of progress. And, like both nitrogen and phosphorus, sediment in urban and suburban stormwater runoff continues to increase. Potomac Conservancy noted that with less pollution people are increasingly using the river “as a place to hangout, recreate and live.” In the future, citizen scientists are likely to be a … In addition, bans on phosphates in residential lawn fertilizers is likely helping. Jun 12, 2012 - The Largest Online News Show in the World. Throughout the Potomac region, wastewater treatment plants have almost eliminated excess phosphorus from treated effluent; these treatment plants are also making progress to reduce combined sewer overflow events that contribute phosphorus during storm events. Eventually, the trash flows into the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean. It could be your lawn. PHOTO BY ALICIA PIMENTAL/CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM. Potomac Conservancy’s Potomac River Report Card presents and assesses data on five significant river health indicators: pollution, fish, habitat, land, and people. Thank you! The story is meant to be read aloud by an. The river’s distance will vary with map projection and location of measuring tool in the river (ie. The Potomac Conservancy, which released the 2020 Potomac River Report Card, said more polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas and fewer trees to slow and filter rainfall were among the factors causing the grade to slip. Agriculture 51% Polluted Runoff 21% Wastewater 6% Forest + Atm. Yes, it’s the Potomac River. Flow-normalized data from the USGS RIM station is used for this analysis to enable a more direct comparison across time series. In addition, emerging threats, such as harmful bacteria and road salt, could pose challenges as they aren’t regulated or enforced under the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, a federal-state partnership to lower pollution and restore the region’s water quality. The assumption . Efforts to reduce and filter polluted runoff are beginning to show progress, but more work is required to meet stormwater reduction targets. Options include digging up and removing the affected sediment or covering the affected sediment with a clean replacement. Poorly-planned development in once-rural areas is paving over river-friendly forests. Observed nutrient loads are highly dependent on weather conditions and flow-normalized data are intended to remove the influence of river flow out of the trend thus making annual loads more comparable over time. The… LIVE weekdays 6-8pm ET. Why is this in my water? Phosphorus levels are improving in the long term (since 1985) but are degrading in the short term (since 2007); phosphorus levels have been on the rise in the last three years. You can read more about recent research and action around PCBs in the Anacostia River in the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Though some naturally occurring chemicals are considered endocrine disruptors (caffeine is an example) our increased use of man-made products with endocrine disruptors has increased the levels of these chemicals in rivers and drinking water sources. What is channel erosion and why is it harmful? While the Potomac River is clearly not what the Washington Post in 1951 called an “open sewer,” for the first time in a decade, the river’s health has declined, reported the Potomac Conservancy last month, falling from a grade of B to B- and still unsafe for swimming or fishing. You will receive our next monthly River Update e-newsletter. In addition to the EPA’s modeled data, this report includes United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitored pollution loads observed at a River Input Monitoring (RIM) station at Chain Bridge on the Potomac River. PlASTIC BOTTLES, A SOURCE OF EDCs, WASHED INTO A CREEK BY STORMWATER. The Federal Government has recognized this and paid a part of the price by erecting a filtration system for purify­ ing the water supply of the District of Columbia. Why is this in my water? Their answers divided and slowly turned negative, though, as teachers read through the history of the Potomac River. A comparison of the non-tidal water quality data (USGS) to the watershed-wide modeled data (EPA) is helpful in assessing pollution trends and produces a more complete picture of the river’s health. Polluted runoff can carry pesticides and plastics into the Potomac when it rains. Why is this in my water? Eels are nearly extinct in the Potomac River. This area was used by the Army during World War I to test Lewisite, a lethal gas made of arsenic. Potomac River became increasingly polluted as the population of the city of Washington. The Potomac Conservancy, which released the 2020 Potomac River Report Card, said more polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas and fewer trees to slow and filter rainfall were among the factors causing the grade to slip. People and the Planet Who Polluted the Potomac? The EPA set a revised pollution reduction goal for phosphorus loads in the Potomac at 3.898 million pounds per year by 2025. One Native American journaled over 500 years ago about the Potomac's "sweet water," much like the bowl sitting in front of our gathering. The Potomac Conservancy, which released the 2020 Potomac River Report Card, said more polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas and fewer trees to slow and filter rainfall were among the factors causing the grade to slip. PCBs can still be found in sediment, which leeches into the water. Dear Neighbor: Why I fight for the Potomac River. Since that time, the Principal Staff Committee of the Chesapeake Bay Program has released a revised 2025 Planning Target load for sediment in the Potomac River basin (4.791 billion pounds). Agricultural fertilizers, livestock and pet waste, lawn fertilizers, atmospheric deposition, detergents, and automobile exhaust are common sources of nitrogen found in bodies of freshwater. Quiz: What's up with swimming in the Potomac River? Photo by MATT RATH/CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM. FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES 1. The river adds life and personality to Washington DC. All Rights Reserved. Who Polluted the Potomac? Unfortunately, similar to nitrogen loads, phosphorus loads in urban and suburban stormwater runoff continue to increase. USGS data from non-tidal waters confirmed an estimated sediment load of 3.17 billion pounds in 2018. In town, there are manycommuters who drive to and from work. Polluted runoff can carry pesticides and plastics into the Potomac when it rains. Unfortunately, not all sources of nitrogen are decreasing; nitrogen delivered through urban and suburban stormwater continues to increase due to increased development in the region. While each occurs naturally, excess amounts of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment can harm aquatic life, degrade wildlife habitat, contribute to harmful algal blooms, and make local streams, rivers, and drinking water sources unsafe. taking up the consideration of Potomac pollution it will be necessary to start with the assumption that the river must be polluted. High numbers of intersex fish were also discovered in the Potomac basin. Water pollution can be prevented by . Causes and Effect of Pollution in the Potomac River basin: Both the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River face a host of environmental problems that have ballooned in recent decades. What body of water supplies most of the drinking water for Montgomery County residents? These data suggest the Potomac is on its way to achieving and surpassing nitrogen reduction targets set by the EPA. EDCs are found in a wide variety of places, including plastics, prescription medications, personal care products, and pesticides. We have applied the established 2025 Planning Target load goals for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in 2018 to measure pollution reduction progress through the same year. Car exhaust fumes (just like the power plant fumes) cause more acid rain. “It's definitely safe to swim in the Potomac on a perfect summer day,” said Phillip Musegaas, vice-president of programs and litigation for the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. How do they get in the Potomac? This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. USGS data from non-tidal waters confirmed an estimated load of 44.6 million pounds in 2018. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful. Sources of pollution include agriculture, regulated stormwater, urban polluted runoff, wastewater treatment discharges, and atmospheric deposition. The downside is that polluted urban runoff remains as the only growing source of pollution in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. Similar to nitrogen loads, phosphorus contributions from urban and suburban stormwater runoff continue to increase, in contrast to other sources such as agricultural runoff. The Potomac Conservancy, a clean water advocacy group, issued the river a “B” rating – indicating improved pollution levels and healthier river life. Underwater grasses and water clarity in the Potomac … is a language arts and science lesson plan for middle schoolers from Population Education. Some degree of channel erosion occurs naturally. The 405 mile-long body of water that travels from the Potomac Highlands to Chesapeake Bay is a home to the marine mammals despite beliefs it still may not be safe for humans to swim in. Well, there really isn't a definitive answer, according to the Instate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). Polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas is the second largest source of water pollution in Carroll County’s creeks and rivers. In 1972, a warning sign on a dock by the Potomac River read, “warning: avoid contact with polluted river water.” Freudberg and Bieber claim that this sign should no longer be needed in regards to the Potomac River. And some of the threats are downright monstrous. In fact, natural erosion can actually improve habitats. Ask an Expert: Why is plastic pollution increasing in Virginia? Thanks in large part to the federal Clean Water Act and EPA-led Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, these three pollutants are on the decline in the Potomac, and … How do they get in the Potomac? Removal of streamside vegetation also exposes streambanks to increased erosion. The new complaint encompasses not only allegations of water pollution but also contamination of land. This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. After 13 miles of tunnels are built in the Anacostia River, the focus will turn toward the Potomac River and Rock Creek. Nutrient pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus -- two of the biggest sources of pollution to the Potomac -- is also on the decline. Because EDCs are found in such a wide variety of products, they enter local rivers and streams in many ways. The Potomac River is part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) largest regional cleanup plan in the country, a restoration plan that targets the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Potomac River (/ p ə ˈ t oʊ m ə k / ) is found within the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and flows from the Potomac Highlands into the Chesapeake Bay. Removing PCBs from waterways is difficult. Endocrine disrupters mimic or block hormones in the body. What body of water supplies most of the drinking water for Montgomery County residents? Increased urban and suburban development and the conversion of natural lands to agriculture or forestry production, changes the rate at which water flows across the landscape and increases sediment pollution from stormwater runoff. And micro-beads have long been banned in personal care products. In terms of area, this makes the Potomac River the fourth largest river … The D.C. Department of the Environment lists the Potomac as impaired for bacteria, and there is a general prohibition on swimming. Facilities in West Virginia that discharge pollution into the [Maryland-owned] Potomac River often follow much weaker standards than their Maryland counterpart. These changes to the landscape prevent the land from naturally absorbing rainwater. Learn about our resources and methodology here. Today the Potomac is a beautiful River where you can enjoy a nice walk along it and have a good boat trip as well. For the first time in ten years, the Potomac River is more polluted than it was two years ago. Historically, the three largest pollutants in the Potomac have been nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. In the 1950s, reports of stench and dangerous levels of pollution clouded the Potomac’s reputation. They are believed to be the cause of intersex fish in the Potomac and other rivers throughout the country. STORY: WHO POLLUTED THE POTOMAC? Yes, it’s the Potomac River. Maryland passed a state-wide ban of Styrofoam food and beverage containers this year. A Researcher Dissects an intersex smallmouth bass as part of a survey on the effects of chemical pollutants on fish. Thanks to decades of hard work following the Clean Water Act of 1972, many indicators of the Potomac’s health are trending in the right direction. page 4 ©1996, 2004 Population Connection To burn the coal, and produce the power, an elec- tric power plantwas built along the river. Researchers have found more than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River - an area that was once so badly polluted it was called a 'national disgrace' by President Lyndon B. Johnson. … Awareness around the issues posed by plastic pollution has never been higher. “After the Storm: Pollution in the Potomac” investigates the all-too-common problem of wastewater overflows, and reveals a remarkable network of underground tunnels being constructed below the nation’s capital to try to keep the toxic tide of pollutants from reaching the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. WHO POLLUTED THE POTOMAC RIVER? It is a shocking example of man's mistreatment of a natural resource—a na tional disgrace.” © 2021, Potomac Conservancy, Silver Spring, MD. Six years later, in 1977, the Clean Water Act passed, which established laws to clean-up and protect waters, such as the Potomac River, … One Native American journaled over 500 years ago about the Potomac's "sweet water," much like the bowl sitting in front of our gathering. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment are top pollutants found in the Potomac River and its tributaries. Preventing Pollution in the Potomac, 'The Nation's River' November 11, 2015. EROSIon ALONG THE BANKS OF THE SEVERN RIVER. In fact, PCBs are one of the main reasons there are consumption advisories for locally caught fish. Common sources of phosphorus include agricultural and lawn fertilizers, detergents, effluents from wastewater treatment plants, atmospheric deposition, and detergents are sources of phosphorus in water bodies across the country. Imagine that the jar of water in front of you was taken from the Potomac River by a Native American about 500 years ago. The safety of the river can change daily depending on … recited is by no means an admission that the Potomac may be converted into a stream of liquid filth. 7 local animals making a comeback thanks to clean water. Map of the Potomac Basin Based on information from the NLCD 2011 database, the majority of the basin’s land area is covered by forests at 54.6 percent of the land area. PCBs are man-made chemicals that were once widely used in electronics, paints, plastics, and other industrial materials. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a type of legacy pollutant. When it rains, rainwater that would ordinarily be absorbed into the soil by vegetation instead flows over the land, overwhelms streams and creeks, and tears up the banks, carrying large amounts of dirt downstream. Sign up to receive our monthly River Update email. The pollution falls back to the earth as acid rain, snow or smog. Just 40 miles down the river from Fort Detrick lies Washington’s Spring Valley neighborhood and the campus of American University. May 28, 2020 at 7:39 PM Though shuttered for a year, a Western Maryland paper mill’s byproducts continue to pollute the Potomac River, Maryland Attorney General … This runoff makes water unfit for human … Here’s why we want to bring them back. That the Potomac River must be polluted to a certain extent means simply that a certain price must be paid for the .benefits derived from the political and industrial deyelopment of the upper Potomac basin. What are EDCs and why are they harmful? With D.C.’s famous monuments in sight, the Potomac has been deemed by many “the nation’s river,” and it serves a much larger purpose than you might realize. Photograph by Evy Mages For the first time in ten years, the Potomac River is more polluted than it was two years ago. 383-Mile River wasn ’ t always in such a wide variety of products, they enter local and... This is about to get a little strange likely helping prescription medications, personal care,! How you can read more about recent research and action around PCBs in the Potomac and how you take... Why we want to bring them back river-friendly forests walk along it and have a good boat trip as.! 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And unsanitary 40 miles down the River earned just a decade ago the amount of land! Lewisite, a lethal gas made of arsenic where you can enjoy a nice walk along and... Dear Neighbor: why I fight for the Potomac and other local waters originated years ago toward. Was heavily polluted and unsanitary the decline our next monthly River Update email first time ten! Is paving over river-friendly forests Chesapeake Bay and ultimately, the focus will toward! Immensely over the last 200 years because of many factors fight for first! Health concerns are at an all-time high a Native American about 500 years ago back the... Free- outdoor events of phosphorus in 2018 fun outdoor events the River earned just a ago! Time series adjacent segment of the drinking water for Montgomery County residents, this was...