DC announces major step in plan to clean up Anacostia River, surrounding areas

The Anacostia River and surrounding areas are inching closer toward being safer, as a major cleanup project hits a milestone.

Tommy Wells, director of the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, said that the Anacostia River Sediment Project has reached an important benchmark as its Interim Record of Decision was released.

“The goal is to get to a river that’s fishable and swimmable,” Wells said.

This plan identifies the early action areas or “hot spots” in the Anacostia River, Washington Channel and Kingman Lake, where contamination from pollution is highest.

“Once it’s filed, that’s the plan. That’s how we’re going to clean it up,” Wells said.

Overall, an area of about 77 acres will be cleaned up, reducing the human health risks from elevated concentrations of contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by about 90%.

The Anacostia River Sediment Project has proceeded through a succession of phases starting in 2013.

The next step is getting the permits and the plans, and Wells said, “we should have a shovel in the ground within two years.”

The area they plan to start with is Kingman Lake. He said within three years they hope to be installing a cap to contain pollution and sediment by the Wharf.

“It’s not as new as it used to be, but there’s still not as many sites that have this kind of level of complexity and contamination across the U.S.,” said Trey Sherard, the interim Riverkeeper at the Anacostia River.

Sherard said he’s thrilled to see the Anacostia River Sediment Project has reached this next step, as his organization has been working toward this goal for years.

“It’s impressive that the District has been this proactive,” Sherard said.

Wells said that they had over 850 comments in response to the initial proposed plan for the dredging and capping in the areas of the Anacostia River.

“We worked through that, we modified our plan some and now we have issued the record of decision, which means it’s time to go forward,” Wells said.

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