The Anacostia River may no longer be “forgotten,” but it is still extremely degraded, according to a report released Wednesday by the Anacostia Watershed Society.
The Society’s annual report card handed the river that runs through Maryland and the District of Columbia a failing grade for the third year in a row, despite incremental improvements. The river also earned an F letter grade in 2010 but saw enough improvements in the following year to garner a C- in 2011. No report was issued for the interim years.
The river is getting more attention and is the subject of costly research to study whether its toxic sediment can be removed or contained. But the uptick in awareness doesn’t necessarily translate to improvements right away, said Jim Foster, the watershed society president.
“It’s tough when you don’t grade on a curve,” Foster said. “We are doing so much better than we have in the past, but the way the numbers roll out we still aren’t in the passing grade territory. I really think that’s going to change quickly.”
The AWS produced the report using the EcoCheck ecosystem assessment system developed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which is also used to grade the health of the Chesapeake Bay and several of its tributaries.
I haven't been to the Anacostia in a few years now, and I don't expect to, but given that it is essentially an open sewer into which everything on the streets of Washington D.C. washes into, and the sediments are all heavily contaminated with organics and heavy metals, I can't image it recovering any time soon.
The Anacostia River saw slight improvements in almost all of the measures of its health over the past year, including an increase in water clarity and the presence of submerged aquatic vegetation, though the amount of dissolved oxygen available to fish, shellfish and other aquatic life still “needs attention,” the report states.
And then there are the factors that continue to plague the river’s urban watershed: namely trash, toxics and high volumes of stormwater runoff. The volume of water washing pollutants from the surrounding developed areas into the river was the only condition the report said was still “degrading.”