Hundreds gather at Anacostia for International Coastal Cleanup Day

WASHINGTON — All around the world, the third Saturday of September is International Coastal Cleanup Day, and events aimed at cleaning up the world’s waters have been held on every continent on earth.

Locally, hundreds showed up again to Kingman Island in the middle of the Anacostia, where Ocean Conservancy held it’s D.C. event for the second year in a row.

Sarah Kollar with the Trash Free Seas Program says it makes a lot of sense to target Kingman Island.

“The island itself acts as a natural trash catch,” said Kollar. “The number one item are plastic beverage bottles,” like soda or water bottles, followed closely by various forms of Styrofoam.

Around the world “the number one item is cigarette butts.”

For the volunteers who quickly spread out, climbing under and through brush and vines, and through sloppy, squishy mud, it didn’t take long to start filling their contractor-strength trash bags.

Janaina Stanley of Logan Circle was less than an hour into the cleanup when she was asked for a quick inventory of what she’d collected.

“I have lots of plastic, lots of Styrofoam, there’s a ton of bottles,” Stanley said. “Within five minutes there was like a ton of trash.”

Last year, the 300 or so who showed up collected 2,500 pounds of garbage in the span of a couple hours.

Turnout was bigger this year, leaving organizers optimistic that even more would be cleaned up.

“They’re just throwing everything away, not even in the trash can, and acting like it’s nothing,” said Aminah Woods, who lives in Northeast D.C. and was on the eastern side of the island with her Girl Scout troop, reaching into the water to get as much gunk out as she could.

Describing the river as “brown and dirty,” Woods lamented: “They don’t really care. And it’s just kind of sad and so that’s why I’m out here today, just to help that out a little bit.”

Under the bridge that carries traffic on East Capitol Street was even more garbage, beyond the typical bottles and cups that were in abundance.

One group found a metal wheel that appeared to have once been attached to a shopping cart. There were rumors that an old Polaroid camera were found. Used condoms and syringes were also mixed in.

“I’m surprised by how much we’re finding,” said Max Linden of Alexandria. “The kind of stuff we’ve seen haven’t really blown my mind.”

But it’s the accumulation of all that stuff that helps the Anacostia earn an “F” in water quality every year, meaning it’s not safe to swim in, even if it were legal in D.C.

“The reputation of the Anacostia is that it’s not well-maintained and that it has a lot of garbage in it,” said Linden, who conceded cleaning up the river has been a priority of the city.

Most of the volunteers who showed up share that opinion too, though many also agreed with Linden’s second point, when he argued: “I think it needs continued attention, just like all the waterways around the world.”

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