Watershed Society fights to rid Anacostia River of sewage, garbage

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Jim Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, notices a man whose just caught a fish in Bladensburg Waterfront Park.

"He probably shouldn't be doing that - at least, not right now," Foster says.

That observation is not because of any rules about fishing - it's about the horrible conditions of the river's water.

Foster said, it's his dream to help change that fact.

"If I have anything to do with it, this river is going to be swimmable and fishable by 2025," he said.

What's wrong with the water?

"The river is contaminated with the detritus of life, I tell people," he said. "The storm water, the washes everything off the land."

"This water is never going to be like Perrier, but it can be much cleaner," he continued. "There's still too much trash, too much sewage."

Yes, he said sewage.

Dan Smith, advocacy director for the Anacostia Watershed Society, said it's largely due to sewage from the Capitol building.

"Every time it rains half an inch in Washington, D.C. - the toilets in the Capitol, the cloak room for the Supreme Court Justices...those toilets flush sewage into the Anacostia River."

According to the Watershed Society, when it rains in D.C., human waste from the eastern side of the district to Georgia Avenue flow into the river.

Supposedly, an eight-year solution is in the works, Smith said.

"A hundred years of sewage - it's finally being addressed," he said.

Most D.C. residents and visitors only ever see the Anacostia River through our passenger window at 55 miles per hour - but since the early 1600s, it's been a passageway through our history.

The Society says - you can help change its course Saturday morning.

"It's our 25th anniversary, and we're going to have probably 2,500 people come out to about 25 different sites along the river," Foster explained.

Everyone will meet up at RFK and divide out into multiple clean-up areas and locations from 8:30 a.m. until around lunchtime.

Some may wonder - with all the things that are going wrong under the water's surface, is picking up the trash really going to do any good?

"It doesn't belong there. It's the right thing to do," Foster said. "And, it's really a psychological toxin too."

Foster said, the event is also a great way for the Watershed Society to engage the community, and bring them back to the river they may have forgotten.

{ }


When: This Saturday, April 5 - Cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon, Celebration from 12-2 p.m.

Where: Meet at RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol St SE, Washington. Celebration to be held at the stadium following clean-up.

Register: Registration is required for the clean-up, but not for the celebration. Register online at the Watershed Society's website.

More Information: Visit