Anacostia River fishing discouraged after report stresses health concern

It is a long-held fact that the Anacostia River has been one of the most polluted waterways in the United States. However, a group of environmentalists say that the danger lurking in the river's water translates to the fish that live there.

Through that, that danger extends to people who still catch and eat fish from D.C.'s polluted river.

Environmentalists say that the Anacostia has been an aquatic landfill of raw sewage and cancer-causing agents such as PCBs. What more, in a report co-sponsored by the Anacostia Watershed Society released this week, the agency says that 22 percent of English-speaking anglers had never heard of any health risks associated with the river.

That number skyrockets to 53 percent when measuring Hispanic fishers.

"The chemicals that are in the fish have been shown to cause health problems," Brent Bolin, the Director of Public Affairs for the AWS, says. "We know that there's a risk that people are taking."

However, for many who grew up along the river, like D.C. resident Angela Washington, the risks don't seem to be a cause for concern.

"I haven't died yet," Washington said. "If you catch a big one, you're going to cook it. Do a lot of folks eat the fish out of here? I think they do, because they take them home, and I don't think they take them home to throw them away."

For District resident Joe Banks though, who has been angling on the Anacostia for the better part of 7 decades, a catfish he recently caught went straight back into the water. He says he doesn't eat them because of the warnings.

However, he says he knows many who do, and they're just fine.

"(They) haven't turned green," Banks said. "They still walk alright."