Anacostia River Splash to mark ‘milestone’ in river’s recovery

The Anacostia River Splash, during which people are invited to take the plunge for a day, is a landmark event, said Christopher E. Williams, president and CEO of the Anacostia Watershed Society.

“It’s a milestone that says we’re getting to the point where E. coli levels in the river are getting low enough that it’s safe to swim,” at least for many days of the year in many parts of the river, he said.

But, Williams told WTOP, more needs to be done to make the river ready for recreational swimming in the long term.

First, he said, the efforts that resulted in reductions in E. coli levels must be redoubled.

For example, Williams said, efforts to cut the pollutants that people can see, such as trash and oil slicks in the water, must be continued.

Beyond providing a cleaner Anacostia River, Williams said: “There needs to be access provided to communities along the river to swimming lessons and to training in water safety.”

There should be equity in choosing where river access should be provided as well, Williams said.

The infrastructure should also include monitoring the Anacostia River, and communicating that information to the public, Williams said.

“So that people know what the water conditions are, what the weather conditions are,” and whether it’s safe to swim that day.

The Anacostia Watershed Society sent a letter to D.C.’s Department of Energy and the Environment and Department of Parks and Recreation outlining its concerns.

Williams said the letter’s meant to be a starting point for discussions on future decisions regarding the vision of a fully swimmable Anacostia River.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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