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Anacostia Watershed & River Restoration

Initial Focus on Stormwater Pollution

DC Appleseed began calling for restoration of the Anacostia River over 20 years ago, at a time when many wrote it off as an unfixable nuisance. Our advocacy is one of the reasons that, today, the Anacostia is becoming a safe and vital resource for recreation, economic development, and neighborhood revitalization.

In 1999, our publication, Managing Stormwater Pollution in the District of Columbia, explained how stormwater runoff carries petroleum hydrocarbons, nitrogen, phosphorous, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants into the Anacostia. The report also presented a plan for managing stormwater runoff, which the DC government adopted. As a result of our continued advocacy for rigorous runoff prevention enforcement, green requirements are now part of the DC building code.

We published a comprehensive report on the restoration of the Anacostia in 2011. A New Day for the Anacostia summarized the considerable efforts that had been accomplished and outlined what still needed to be done to fully restore the river. The report explained that the most challenging task is to address the toxic sediment from what were once industrial installations along the river. The Navy Yard, for example, is now an attractive area with homes, restaurants, and greenspaces, featuring wetlands. But from 1800 through the mid-sixties, the Navy Yard manufactured guns and munitions, built ships, and deposited toxic sediment in the riverbed. The shoreline at the Navy Yard is beautiful, but the toxic sediment in the river prevents visitors from swimming and fishing in the Anacostia.

Comprehensive Report on Needed Restoration

The publication of our report was followed by robust advocacy before the DC Council. In 2014, with our support and advocacy, the Council passed The Anacostia River Toxics Remediation Act which required the DC Department of Energy and the Environment to publish an Interim Record of Decision or IROD, describing the remedies for the toxic sediment at the Navy Yard and 10 other sites.

The IROD, published in September of 2020, raised a number of questions, many of which were resolved during discussions DC Appleseed had with the Department of Energy and the Environment. Others were addressed in the Work Plan to be released in September of 2021. The Work Plan’s remediation schedule makes it possible for us to anticipate the time when there can be safe fishing and swimming throughout the Anacostia.

Successful Advocacy for DC Government Commitment


Staff Contact:

Vanessa Batters-Thompson

Neil Richardson

Pro Bono Partners:

Chesapeake Bay Trust

Clean Water Fund

Miles & Stockbridge

Coho Environmental

Lois Schiffer

This Anacostia marina will become a place where

people can fish and swim safely.

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