Splashdown scrubbed: Anacostia River event postponed after heavy rain, sewage overflow

If you were one of the brave souls who was ready to jump into the Anacostia River on Saturday, bad news.

Saturday’s Anacostia River “splash” event has been postponed, the District Department of Energy and Environment announced Friday.

While DOEE says the river quality has significantly improved, heavy rains can lead to combined sewer overflows, or CSOs. The recent rainfall did just that — D.C. officials said sewage spilled into the river after this week’s heavy storms.

“Recently, we have had several intense short duration rain events, which caused two small CSO discharges to the Anacostia River. Unfortunately, the splash event needs to be postponed out of an abundance of caution,” said Jeff Seltzer, deputy director of DOEE’s Natural Resources Administration.

Testing in 2022 showed the Anacostia was clean enough to swim in most of the time, but not in the 72 hours after a heavy rainfall when CSO discharges into the river take place.

DOEE said DC Water’s current Clean River Project will address these CSO discharges in the Anacostia, which they said will continue to improve the quality of the river.

Rescheduled to September, the splash event will be held at the Kingman Island dock next to the Benning Road Bridge. Swimmers can check out Anacostia Riverkeeper for updated information on their chance to finally take their 20-minute plunge.

The Anacostia Watershed Society is one of the environmental advocacy groups working to make the river more recreational-friendly since the swimming ban went into effect in 1971. Specifically, the group is working to make the river swimmable and fishable by 2025.

Until then, it is illegal to swim in any of the District’s waterways unless a permit is obtained for special events by DOEE.

Here’s looking at you, Lorde.

David Andrews

No stranger to local news, David Andrews has contributed to DCist, Greater Greater Washington and was fellow at Washingtonian Magazine. He worked as a photo/videographer for University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

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