The four report cards issued by the Potomac Conservancy to score the health of its local river since 2007 read like a resume for “most improved” river. The first two grades were Ds, followed by a C in 2013 and, Wednesday, the river earned its highest grade yet: a B-.Or to translate into bureaucratese, give us more money, please.
The report that accompanies the letter grade indicates the Chesapeake Bay tributary is less polluted, more protected and more widely used as a recreational asset than it has been in decades, but it still leaves room for improvement.
“Even though we’re celebrating, we still have to remain diligent,” said Hedrick Belin, president of the conservancy.Please note, its the cities that are still causing the bulk of the Potomac's problems.
The top three pollutants in the Potomac River — nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment — have been decreasing since 1985 as sources such as agriculture and wastewater treatment plants have reduced their contributions, according to the report.
But polluted urban runoff remains the only growing source of pollution to the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay as more of the watershed is developed and its population grows.
The development of formerly rural areas into more suburban enclaves, which involves exchanging forested or other land uses for new homes and the infrastructure they require, is a particular threat to the Potomac’s health, the report states. While more than half of the land in the Potomac watershed is still forested, suburban sprawl is reducing those water-cleaning buffers in places like Loudoun County, VA, and Frederick County, MD, where development is edging into formerly rural areas.But let's attack the suburbs, because we resent people living outside our urban enclaves.
These report cards, although they may have a certain amount of hard data behind them, are ultimately political documents. You can't call an area too awful, or people are likely to write off the possibility of improvement, and they can't improve too fast, or people are likely to get the idea that they don't need to do (or pay) any more.
All that said; I think the Potomac, with the exception of the Anacostia, is in pretty good shape.