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Potomac River Named 'Most Endangered' by Environmental Watchdog

American Rivers has issued an annual report on America’s Most Endangered Rivers since 1986.

The Potomac River is America's "Most Endangered River" according to environmental watchdog organization, American Rivers.

The Potomac is at the number one slot in part to get the attention of policymakers about the evolving threats to rivers and the continuing importance of the Clean Water Act 40 years after it became law.

“When members of Congress fill a glass of water or drink their morning coffee, that water comes from the Potomac River. It’s time to draw the clear connections between healthy rivers, drinking water, and public health in Washington, D.C., and in communities nationwide,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said in a prepared statement

The Potomac, which runs some 380 miles across five states, was number one on the America’s Most Endangered Rivers list of 10 rivers that span 15 states.

The main threat facing the Potomac is pollution like "agricultural operations, urban runoff from streets and parking lots, and other contaminants in the water, such as pharmaceuticals," according to the report.

While the report recognizes the progress made in reclaiming the Potomac's waters from their previous state as a "cesspool," it warns that progress could be lost if the Clean Water Act is overturned or weakened.

“If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time when the Potomac and rivers nationwide were too polluted and dangerous to use” said Irvin.

District entities are doing their part to reduce harmful pollution to the Potomac. DC Water, to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, has begun the Clean Rivers Project to address Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). CSO happens when pipes that handle both storm water and wastewater see a surge greater than their capacity during a heavy rain or snow, which sends both types of sewer water straight into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. 

The , the most significant proposal would involve the creation of a massive 58 million gallon tunnel, the Potomac Storage Tunnel. This tunnel would have a greater capacity to hold an influx of storm water and would carry wastewater and storm water from Georgetown to an upgraded Potomac Pumping Station. But the plan for the Potomac is still in the planning stages and years away from being a reality.

Just this year the Potomac River received the grade of a "D" for water quality from the 2011 Chesapeake Bay report card released last month. The barely passing grade held steady from the previous year and was a half grade higher than the Chesapeake Bay itself, which earned a "D-". The annual report card is issued based on joint research by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Residents of the Washington D.C. metro area– including the President and Congress– need to realize they are composed mostly of Potomac river water and they need to protect and enforce the laws that safeguard their health,” Ed Merrifield, president of Potomac Riverkeeper, said in a prepared statement.

To learn more, go to www.americanrivers.org/PotomacRiver

Below is the full list of rivers, including the impacted states and the threats and risks as offered in the report:

1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution
At risk: Clean water and public health
2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat
3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries
4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety
5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife
6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health
7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation
8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation
9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health.
10: Kansas River (KS)

Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat

Jeff Hawkins May 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Ammunition for next week's "Ben Cardin saves America, one Bill at a time" feature on Local Voices here at Patch.
get the lead and arsenic out May 20, 2012 at 12:01 PM
In addition to all the pollution in the water don't forget the Washington Aqueduct adds HFSA (hydro fluorosilicic acid) to the water after they treat it. The HFSA is not fluoride but rather an industrial by product of the fertilizer industry that contains small amounts of lead, arsenic and other contaminants. There is neither a Federal nor D.C. law requiring HFSA be added to the water. In Fact the EPA Maximum Contaminant level goals for lead and Arsenic are zero. The HFSA is also very acidic and causes lead and other metals to leach out of pipes, fixtures and meters. [The DC Water (WASA) meters are owned by DC Water (and rented to customers) and the majority of them which contain 5 to 7 percent lead are leaching lead. Neither of these sources of lead is reported on the annual DC Water CCR (Consumer Confidence Report)]. If you take a look at some of the people on the DC Water board and their histories you might begin to get a sense of how we arrived at a point where there are two know sources of lead in DC Water, water but no mention to the public about them. http://www.environmentalqualityinstitute.org/publications.php

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