Potomac River still threatened by pollution

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Pollution remains a major threat to the Potomac River, its tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay where it flows.

From the puddle in the street, to the downspout on your house, to run off from flooding — it all ends up in the Potomac.

The river still gets a D grade for quality. The population increase in the region of more than 2 million people over the next 20 years will put more pressure on a river, says the Potomac Conservancy.

The river is threatened by nutrients, chemicals, sediment and pathogens.

In its annual report on the condition of the Potomac, often called “Nation’s River,” the Conservancy reports that more buffer space is needed between development and the river.

The reports says tighter restrictions are also needed for storm and waste water treatment runoff to lower their pollution of the Potomac.

The Conservancy says 80 percent of the male bass in the Potomac are still showing female characteristics due to the pollution in the water. It is evidence that the cleanup has a long way to go, the Conservancy says.

The river is showing signs of improvement. Steve Witamuth, who has lived on the river in D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront Marina for more than 20 years, says it is getting better.

“I know when you drive down the GW Parkway, it used to bring tears to your eyes because it was an open sewer,” Witamuth says. He thinks the water looks much cleaner now.

Another resident of the marina, Eric Mosel, says he’s also seen a change.

“Go a little more down-stream, more to the Occoquan, and the water quality is a lot better,” Mosel says.

More than 2 million people in the Washington region get their drinking water from the Potomac. The water intake pipes are up-stream near Great Falls, where the water quality is much better than where it enters the Chesapeake Bay.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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