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It is illegal to go swimming in the Great Falls area of the Potomac River, an area also known as Mather Gorge. The 33rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is scheduled for April 10th, 2021. All rights reserved. And for the first time in many years, people are starting to ask what swimming could look like in D.C.'s rivers. “Do we commit to providing safe, clean water for future generations and restoring this river? EPA Wants the Chicago River Clean Enough to Swim In The EPA doubles down on its push to get Chicago to clean up the river, as well as the Cal-Sag and Little Calumet. FENSTON: Washington, D.C., is one of 700 cities around the country where antiquated sewer systems regularly overflow into nearby waterways when it rains. In fact, it's been illegal to swim in any D.C. waterway since the early 1970s. It’s safe enough, but it’s hella muddy at the shoreline. We swim/ski/tube behind our boat, but walking in from the shoreline would be a muddy mess. Clean Rivers Project, a $2.6 billion initiative aimed at eliminating pollution from the city’s waterways. GARDNER: I have been in water far nastier than this. "Go swim in the Potomac," Daley said at a City Hall news conference about police issues. There are enough hazards in this section that even the best kayakers can have trouble navigating the rapids. In Washington, D.C., the Potomac River achieves primary contact status about half the time, also thanks to implementation of Clean Water Act standards, said Nancy Stoner, president of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit. On … The city banned swimming in the river starting in the 1980s because of severe pollution then, but the ban persists even though the river is a lot cleaner now, … Thankfully, thanks to the Clean Water Act, our Potomac River is clean enough for dolphins, just as global warming makes it more habitable for them. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go out there and swim,” Burrell says. As some of you may know – you’re not allowed to swim in the Potomac river in the waters of the city of the District of Columbia. It is illegal to wade and swim in the water of the Potomac River. GARNAAS-HOLMES: Convincing people that we're actually getting towards a space where you can stick your hand in and pull it out and there will be more than just the skeleton left. f 888.267.9505 Tommy Wells is director of the District Department of Energy and Environment. She calls this a river pool and says cities all over the world are building them in formerly polluted urban waters. Copyright © 2019 NPR. Washington’s ambitious “Vision for a Sustainable D.C.” sets the bold goal of making the Potomac River—and all other urban waterways in the district—swimmable and fishable by 2032. This summer is likely to be a little different from summers past. Find out how our river scored today and A Tidal Estuary Point Lookout State Park is a picturesque peninsula formed by the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. The Potomac Conservancy gave the river a “B-” on the “Potomac Report Card” it issued in March, stating that the river is on track to be swimmable and fishable by 2025. Jacob Fenston reports from member station WAMU. When rivers are clean, other great things follow; wildlife can grow in abundance and diversity, plants begin to flourish, and people can enjoy the river without worry. FENSTON: That, he says, is actually easier than the other big challenge. FENSTON: Erin Garnaas-Holmes works for the nonprofit Clean Water Fund. On Tuesday, when the riverkeepers christened their newly donated boat, the Potomac River was rated red for no-go — based on a September 2018 water sample. And he says there are two obstacles to swimming in the Anacostia. info@nacwa.org, Advancing Smarter Regulations & Enforcement, Promoting Innovation to Address 21st Century Challenges, Excellence in Management Recognition Program, National Environmental Achievement Award Program, Utility of the Future Today Recognition Program, Promoting Innovation for 21st Century Challenges. JACOB FENSTON, BYLINE: Picture this - it's one of the hottest days of the year; heat index - 107. Swimming has been banned in some of the nation's urban rivers for decades because of pollution. Potomac River Watershed Cleanup Connecting people to their local watershed . But the water itself is clean enough. Despite its designation as a Class A Primary Contact waterway, the DC Department of Health (DOH) bans swimming in the Potomac River citing the risk of high bacteria levels after rainstorms as the only reason it is considered “unsafe” to swim. The first phase of the project, the Anacostia River Tunnel Project, came online March 2018. The Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup has become a decisive catalyst for progress that ignites people’s interest and passion for the environment and community action. Besides the beauty and recreation it provides, the area pulls nearly 400 million gallons of water a day out of it—about 90 percent of our drinking water. I figured that I was going to jump out of the water and my skin was going to fall off or something like that. It is illegal to go swimming in the Great Falls area of the Potomac River, an area also known as Mather Gorge. Though he was kind of right about the Potomac, not the only civic river to face substantial cleanup issues. An upgraded sewer system is now preventing 80% of sewage overflows. Potomac River could soon be clean enough for a swim — report . Stalled progress could signal a dangerous reversal in course for the river’s health if bold measures are not taken to address threats. That sounds strange, but it’s time to clear up a few points and to provide tips to make your summer cool. Rather, he sees the forecasts as one more … More work and vigilance is definitely necessary, but for the first time in generations, parts of the river are clean enough for anglers to eat their catch and safe enough for children to wade in. But in the Anacostia, there's a lot less sewage than there used to be. Do not swallow water. Save the Date: 2030 Within 15 years, the waters flowing through the midwestern metropolis could be clean enough for a dip. Accuracy and availability may vary. JEFFREY MATTHEWS: It's so relaxing out here. Although this activity relates the story of the Potomac River and the history of Washington, D.C., similar situations exist in many watersheds throughout the country. Daley says the Chicago River, once little more than an above-ground sewer, is now much cleaner, thanks to local anti … Overall, the report rated the Potomac River’s health a D. Swimming is prohibited. There are similar examples in Paris and Zurich, and there are plans in the works in London, Boston and New York City. The Potomac River is in the middle of comeback and is cleaner than in decades past, but it remains too polluted for safe swimming or fishing. When conditions are just right, one to three days after rain and runoff drains into the river, the Potomac is clean enough for swimmers to stay in the water as long as they please. He says local attention is not enough to save the forgotten river. CHECK BACK IN 2021 May 30, 2020 Just ten years earlier, it got a D. About three-quarters of this area’s drinking water is pulled from the Potomac… more important than the potomac river. WATER POLLUTION Potomac River could soon be clean enough for a swim — report Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2018. A stretch of the Potomac River between Great Falls and Chain Bridge has proven itself to be quite deadly, so hikers beware. It is the largest public works project the city has seen since the Metro. “Tourists go there and sit on the Tidal Basin and have a good time. This World Rivers Day, we have one wish: Rivers Fit To Swim In. Now, after years of cleanup efforts, city officials are starting to rethink that swim ban. We spend just about every summer weekend on the water, and have for 20 years as our kids were growing up. A similar upgrade is in the works for the Potomac. Now, the waterways are becoming cleaner and D.C. may allow swimming in the Potomac and Anacostia. ST LEGER: Copenhagen has a number of really interesting examples of harbor baths. ERIN GARNAAS-HOLMES: It's been the poster child for a degraded urban waterway for decades. “You can see how this can be considered a social issue. ‘Potomac River – Traffic on the Key Bridge – 04-20-10′ courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’. Let’s Go Swimming in the Chicago River! Here in Washington, D.C., a bright green mat of algae used to clog the Potomac River each summer. At some point, I might clean up enough to swim in, but due to debris and current it will probably always remain no swimming through DC. Potomac Conservancy and the Nation’s Triathlon are joining forces to ‘fight for a Potomac River that’s safe to swim in on race day and every other day of the year.’ “We want the river to be clean enough to swim in every day, including race day. DALEY: Go swim in the Potomac. Local nonprofits that monitor the Potomac and Anacostia have documented what seems like slow but steady progress. It’s safe enough, but it’s hella muddy at the shoreline. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record. The Potomac River is in its best shape in decades, marking an extraordinary recovery from just a few years ago, according to the Potomac Conservancy's annual report. Is it legal? You shouldn’t even wade in it for three days after rain. Potomac River could soon be clean enough for a swim — report. E&E News Daley To Feds On Chicago River Cleanup: 'Go Swim In The Potomac' In his typically blunt style, Mayor Richard M. Daley replied Wednesday afternoon to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency, urging that his city's Chicago River be made clean enough to swim in. Daley To Feds On Chicago River Cleanup: 'Go Swim In The Potomac' In his typically blunt style, Mayor Richard M. Daley replied Wednesday afternoon to a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency, urging that his city's Chicago River be made clean enough to swim in . FENSTON: Jeffrey Matthews is watching his two young kids splash around in the shallow water but not in the river. Potomac Conservancy is the region's leading clean water advocate, fighting to ensure the Potomac River boasts clean drinking water, healthy lands, and vibrant communities. There are also several special opportunities to swim this summer where Potomac Riverkeeper is monitoring and, of course, our RiverPalooza events where you can paddle, canoe, or snorkel with the Riverkeepers. Feds okay Chicago River cleanup ... and Calumet Rivers clean enough to swim in. Two Drownings in Potomac River Prompt Swimming Warning By Bay Bulletin / June 15, 2020 Emergency responders in Washington, D.C. and Maryland are warning people not to swim in swift-moving portions of the Potomac River after two drownings near Chain Bridge over the past three weeks. Drowning deaths and rescues have been reported on waterways in and around the District. ELVERT GARDNER: I was initially worried about swimming in the Potomac. It is sometimes safe, but after large storm events bacteria counts go way up. Or are they going to take this carrot from an EPA and a Department of Justice that really doesn’t care about water quality?" kayaking and paddleboarding. WAMU wrote this week on steps the city and others are taking to make the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers swimmable. NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. In some ways, the Potomac is cleaner today than it was 40 or 50 years ago. **WARNING: SWIMMING IS PROHIBITED IN D.C. I have many fond memories of summer days spent swimming, tubing, wading, and just lounging in and around the rivers and lakes that I have been fortunate enough to live near. You could have just a general swim area. I could just sit here all day. The Potomac River is currently listed as impaired for bacteria and is considered unsafe for swimming. To be clean enough for swim ming, authorities say, water should not contain more than 1,000 coliform (intestinal bac teria) organisms per 100 milli liters. As far as the pollution, the river has a B rating. Environmental experts said the improved rating is a sign that federal and community conservation efforts are working, and the river could one day be clean enough to swim in. Emanuel’s statement is in response to the EPA’s demand that local officials make the Chicago River clean enough to swim in - and the feds are threatening to step in if they don’t. Swimming, fishing, boating, and camping are just a few of the activities to be enjoyed in this beautiful bay setting! POTOMAC, MD - JULY 16: A dog swims by a kayaker while she sets off into the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park July 16, 2011 in Potomac, Maryland. We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment. FENSTON: And Portland, Ore., started opening swimming beaches on the Willamette River in 2014. More than 40 years later, the river still has issues, but it’s much cleaner—earning a B in the Potomac Conservancy’s most recent report card, issued in 2018. But the water itself is clean enough. ON THE HEELS of word that the recent federal budget deal will continue to fund the Chesapeake Bay cleanup comes news that the Potomac River is almost clean enough to swim in. Having lived for years in D.C., I never saw a dolphin there. Being able to safely swim in the entire river is a goal worth pursuing as new challenges emerge. MERRILL ST LEGER: So you could have a large lap pool, for instance. The sample had 240 colony-forming units of enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of water –up from a safe level in the dry-weather sample. FENSTON: And people are already getting in the water. Potomac River, United States. WATERS REGARDLESS OF THE CURRENT STATUS** A “green” rating demonstrates that the level of E. coli at the time of sampling falls beneath the limit of 126 MPN/100 ml, the numeric standard used for this citizen science initiative to determine whether DC waters are safe and clean enough for primary contact recreation, e.g. FENSTON: St. Leger visited four of them last summer and brought back photos - platforms in the middle of the Danish capital packed with swimmers and sunbathers. In fact, it's been illegal to swim in any D.C. waterway since the early 1970s. Like … Specifically: In 1971, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency pressured city lawmakers to ban swimming. E&E News The Potomac River is in its best shape in decades, marking an extraordinary recovery from just a few years ago, according to the Potomac Conservancy's annual report. Back then, people were warned not to swim in the river or eat Kayaking can be … The second phase, the Potomac River Tunnel Project, is underway. Back to table of contents. GARNAAS-HOLMES: One is the technical challenge of making sure that the water is actually clean enough. I’d never wanna walk in. But the river is clean enough for swimming as it approaches Washington. the Nation’s Escape Triathlon (part of the Escape Triathlon Series) will continue its partnership with Potomac Conservancy, a leading clean water advocate. ON THE HEELS of word that the recent federal budget deal will continue to fund the Chesapeake Bay cleanup comes news that the Potomac River is almost clean enough to swim in. "We're trying to make this river every day cleanable, more cleanable." As part of the utility’s Clean Rivers Project, the combined sewer overflows, that have heavily polluted the Anacostia and Potomac rivers in the past, will decrease by 98% by the year 2023. Fairview Beach, Va., a public beach along the banks of the Potomac River, had a bacteria level more than twice the safe limit for swimming following the heavy rain. Here in Washington, D.C., a bright green mat of algae used to clog the Potomac River each summer. Erin Garnaas-Holmes says he's been thinking about applying for one on the Anacostia. Check out the Washington Post's interactive mapto view the deadly hazards that lurk in these waters. The release of sewage through aging urban sewer systems is a main reason areas of the Potomac River are closed to swimming. Even in recent years, after stronger cleanup efforts, the Nation’s Triathlon has … Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information. Now, the waterways are becoming cleaner and D.C. may allow swimming in the Potomac and Anacostia. In Washington, city officials are on board. We swim/ski/tube behind our boat, but walking in from the shoreline would be a muddy mess. Potomac Riverkeeper Network is composed of three Riverkeepers — Shenandoah, Upper Potomac, and Potomac — working together to protect the public’s right to clean water in the Potomac river watershed. The COMAR specifically defines, “recreational use” as “activities on the Potomac River, including swimming, bathing, wading, diving, tubing, rafting, and other uses involving contact with the water.” (COMAR 08.06.01.02B(2)(a)). They're in a fountain a few steps from the Anacostia River itself. The sandy beach has a designated swimming area with lifeguards, as well as grills, picnic tables, and a playground. Nearly every year, there are drowning accidents in this stretch of the river. This group has been swimming in the Potomac weekly for the past decade just outside the D.C. border where swimming isn't officially banned. … People in Georgetown don’t have to worry about clean water in the Potomac,” Stanley said. The letter demands that parts of the river be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water,” which means activities from swimming to canoeing. I’d never wanna walk in. Upgrading our infrastructure (i.e sewage tunnels and treatment facilities) and creating and upholding adequate regulations can help to resolve this major form of pollution. Potomac River could soon be clean enough for a swim — report Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2018 . THE POTOMAC RIVER has been a national embarrassment for decades. WASHINGTON — The Potomac River just got its report card, and the news is quite good.. Swimming has been banned in some of the nation's urban rivers for decades because of pollution. Now it's possible to get a special permit for swim events. Great Falls might be a no-brainer, but what about the calm water, nowhere near the falls, where it looks nice and flat? FENSTON: Within the city's borders, officials have been inching away from the swim ban. It provides the capital's drinking water through an intake above Great Falls just north of the city. FENSTON: Elvert Gardner's a triathlete. With water temperatures around 50°F, U.S. Marine Quinn Hurt braves the polluted, murky waters of the Potomac. Ask A Robot ... noting that swimming is illegal in any D.C. waterways. Wander provides more details of the improving water quality of the Potomac River and the Anacostia River: The Potomac Conservancy graded the Potomac a “B” in 2018, rising from a D- in 2007. We spend just about every summer weekend on the water, and have for 20 years as our kids were growing up. If you do choose to swim, wade, canoe, or kayak in the Potomac, here are ways to limit your risk: Do not enter the water for several days after a significant rainstorm. TOMMY WELLS: I believe we will have swimming platforms in Washington, D.C., no later than 2025. So check Swim Guide, make sure it hasn’t rained on Thursday or Friday, and then you’ll know that it is generally safe to swim. In … So how's the water? FENSTON: Merrill St. Leger is an urban planner. On a recent evening, a dozen or so swimmers lined up on a dock and jumped into the light green Potomac. You are allowed to swim in it upriver of DC a bit – where the water is ‘cleaner’ (actually, it’s quite nice about 50-60 miles upriver near Harpers Ferry). FENSTON: Generations of D.C. parents have told their kids to stay away from the Anacostia River. Authorities now say significant progress has been made, with some species of fish absent for decades now returning and the river clean enough to swim in on some days of the year. The Potomac Conservancy, a clean water advocacy group, issued the river a “B” rating – indicating improved pollution levels and healthier river life – in its annual report published last week. For many years, poor water quality alone was enough to keep people from wanting to swim in our rivers. https://wtop.com/news/2013/05/what-is-in-the-potomac-rivers-water But if an ambitious effort is successful, Georgetown will be ground zero for river swimming in DC. Washington could be next with its first swim days as soon as next summer. Ten years ago, the Potomac Conservancy rated the river’s health with a “D” grade. You're lounging by a slow-moving river, feet dangling in the water. The Potomac Conservancy graded the Potomac a “B” in 2018, rising from a D- in 2007. the Potomac Riverkeeper asked. Potomac River 7.5 Mile Swim CANCELLED IN 2020 DUE TO COVID-19. Storm flows spike bacteria levels, which decrease with time. Even grabbing a ball from the shallows of this area, known as Mather Gorge, can be life-threatening. We want all of our rivers to be clean enough that you wouldn’t have a second thought about taking the plunge. How Clean Is The Anacostia River? National Association of Clean Water Agencies, p 202.833.2672 In cities around the U.S., swimmers have started to tip toe back into waters that have been off limits for decades because of pollution. GARNAAS-HOLMES: Where we have a swim day in the river, maybe jump off of a dock and test it out. One reason I work to protect and conserve our natural waterways is so that everyone is afforded the same opportunity to create memories of their own. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. 23. Health if bold measures are not taken to address threats 7.5 Mile swim in... And Environment young kids splash around in the Anacostia River itself rising a! Are starting to ask what swimming could look like in D.C., I never saw a there! Jacob fenston, BYLINE: Picture this - it 's been illegal to go out and. And enhance public use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information March 2018 been illegal to swim any. 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