The U.S. Navy sent a ship on a mission in the Anacostia River in July. Its two-week job: Gather information about the chemical contamination in the river.
Its assignment to the river coincided with the release of a 200-page report that provided the most detailed look so far at the dozens of chemical contaminants found in the Anacostia and its sediments.
The report was released by the Anacostia Watershed Toxics Alliance, a public-private partnership formed last year by state and federal agencies and some businesses to work on cleaning up the Anacostia River.
From the Washington Navy Yard and Southeast Federal Center to scores of smaller facilities throughout the watershed, we have made major strides in cleaning up the Anacostia in recent years,” said EPA Regional Administrator Bradley Campbell.
But, he added, the study “underscores the magnitude of the work we still need to do to revitalize and restore this important resource.”
A health advisory warning residents not to eat fish from the river has been in place for several years. Sources of pollution, according to the report, range from auto emissions to pesticides to power plants.
While the report helps to identify what is in the river, more information is needed to help develop effective cleanup strategies, according to the alliance.
To help, it paid the Navy to send its one-of-a-kind research vessel, the 40-foot R/V Ecos, from San Diego to the Anacostia for two weeks. The ship’s sophisticated monitoring equipment will gather information that will help scientists better understand the movement of water in the watershed.
That, in turn, will help scientists better estimate chemical contaminant toxicity, concentrations, loadings, transport mechanisms and impacts on human health and the environment.
Historically, many industries were based along the Anacostia and, over the years, wastes from those operations as well as from other human activities entered the river. Aggravating the situation is the Anacostia watershed has lost many of its natural buffers, including 75 percent of its forests, 90 percent of its tidal wetlands and 70 percent of its nontidal wetlands.