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How to Obtain Approval for a Swim Event in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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The District Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) may grant an exception to the swimming prohibition in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers for special swimming events or other competitions that involve water contact. The special swimming event organizer must demonstrate that the bacteria and pollutant levels (water quality) in the river are likely to be below water quality standards during the event.

The special swimming event organizer must monitor and analyze the river's water quality parameters. They must adhere to the requirements listed below.

Water Quality Requirements

  1. Create a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) and submit it to DOEE for approval at least 28 days prior to collecting samples. The monitoring plan must meet the requirements in Title 21, Chapter 11 – Rivers. The QAPP shall explain how they will monitor and analyze for the Class A constituents, E. coli, pH, and turbidity, which can be found in Title 21, Chapter 11 – Water Quality Standards.
  2. Samples shall not be collected before DOEE approves the QAPP.
  3. Submit the monitoring report and analysis of the river’s water quality to DOEE for review at least 48 hours before the event.
  4. Submit a contingency plan that will be followed if DOEE determines the river is unsafe for swimming.
  5. Pay a $1,000 fee per event to DOEE.

Pre-Event Requirements

  1. Prior to the event, organizers must also obtain permission from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department and the National Park Service (NPS) to swim in the Potomac or Anacostia Rivers. See the Mayors’ Special Events Task Group at HSEMA for further details.
  2. A Certificate of Insurance with the appropriate coverage, as required by Title 21, Chapter 11 – Rivers, shall be submitted to DOEE at least 28 days before the event. Coverage shall be maintained throughout the period of the event.
  3. The special swimming event organizer shall secure from each of its employees, contractors, volunteers, and event participants a signed DOEE-approved statement where the organizer expressly:
      a. assumes the risk of event participation; and
      b. waives liability of the District Government, its officers, employees, and agents for any damage or injury arising out of the person’s participation in the event.

Post-Event Requirements

The special swimming event organizer shall submit to DOEE within eight weeks after the event, the following:

  • a report of each recorded incident from each relevant public safety agency;
  • each medical issue or incident involving an on-site first aid facility;
  • use of the contingency plan for unsafe swimming; and,
  • results of water samples taken in the river on the day of the event.

Submit documents to:

District Department of Energy and Environment
Attention: Associate Director - Water Quality Division

1200 First Street, NE., 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20002

E-mail: [email protected]