U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Human waste, trash and chemicals continue to
pollute the Anacostia River, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has
given the waterway a failing grade, calling for more government
action to clean it up.
"Every time a member of Congress uses a toilet during a rainstorm,
he helps to pollute the river," said Doug Siglin, director of the
foundation's Anacostia River Initiative. "The first thing that we
have to do is get that combined sewer system fixed."
It's a problem that could sour prospects of a baseball stadium
along the waterfront if it's not fixed. The District of Columbia's
antiquated sewer system, part of which combines rainwater and
sanitary sewage, routinely overflows into the Anacostia at 19
different points whenever there is significant rainfall.
Siglin said the overflow will hurt economic development along the
waterfront, including the federal Transportation Department
headquarters, because it is being constructed near the city's second
largest sewer station.
"When the sewer overflows, it stinks here," Siglin said. "All that
economic investment is going to be in some way compromised."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams has been working on the river cleanup
for much longer than he's been working on baseball and other
Anacostia development, his spokesman Chris Bender said. The mayor was
in talks with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding funding for
the sewer overhaul.
"We're going to get an environmental jump on this development,"
Bender said. "Part of the Anacostia waterfront initiative, the major
part, is cleaning up the river."
The Anacostia is one of eight rivers targeted by the Environmental
Protection Agency's National Urban River Restoration Initiative that
will help coordinate federal funding for cleanup efforts.
Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for
water, said the agency is negotiating with the D.C. government on a
plan to fix the city's sewer system.
"There's reason to be optimistic," Grumbles said, adding that
sewer system users should fund most of the fix but that the EPA
provides some funds to help.
Bay foundation officials said upgrading the sewer system will cost
more than $1 billion. Siglin said most of the river pollution comes
from upstream in Maryland, and the foundation is calling on the
state, Montgomery and Prince George's counties for support as well.
While the Anacostia only got a grade of 17 on a 100-point scale,
the foundation has set the goal of raising the river's rating to a
score of 40 by the year 2020, which would make it safe for fishing
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