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Bowser Administration Announces Milestone in Cleanup Plan for Anacostia River

Monday, December 30, 2019

Proposed Plan for Anacostia River Sediment Project Available for Public Comment

(WASHINGTON, DC) – December 30, 2019 – Today, the Bowser Administration announced an important milestone in cleanup plans for the Anacostia River, with the release of the Proposed Plan for the Anacostia River Sediment Project (ARSP). That plan, which will make the river and two other bodies of water safer for the public and environmental health, is now available for public comment in the DC Register and on the project’s website: anacostiasedimentproject.com.

“Our mission is to make the District the most sustainable city in the nation, and this includes ensuring we keep our environment healthy by eliminating contaminants from our waterways,” said Tommy Wells, Director of DC’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). “The completion of the Proposed Plan marks a significant step in restoring the Anacostia River to its former glory, and making it safer for the public and wildlife.”

Beginning in 2015, DOEE identified contamination in an ARSP study area that includes the nine-mile tidal portion of the Anacostia River, Kingman Lake, and Washington Channel. Elevated concentrations of contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and pesticides from industrial, urban, and human activities are present in sediment throughout the river, posing a risk to aquatic wildlife and humans.

Working with a committed group of stakeholders, including the Mayor’s Leadership Council for a Cleaner Anacostia River, DOEE has fully characterized contamination in the ARSP study area and has developed cleanup options described in the Proposed Plan. Almost 4000 environmental samples were collected and analyzed to develop the clean-up strategy that includes completing a number of companion studies, which determined surface water and groundwater impacts on the study area.

The Proposed Plan focuses on soil cleanup at the bottom of the river. The Proposed Plan, feasibility studies, and supporting technical documents for the ARSP are now available for public comment through January 26, 2020, with the option of extending for another 30 days upon request. The public comment period invites stakeholders to submit written comments and includes four public meetings where DOEE will describe its preferred cleanup strategy and answer any questions from the public.

DOEE plans to issue an Interim Record of Decision (ROD) in 2020 for the ARSP study area that applies to 11 early action areas or hot spots. A ROD is a key element in the Superfund process that identifies a selected cleanup strategy and outlines the process for its implementation. The final river-wide ROD will be issued after sampling and monitoring reveals how well the river system has responded to the hot spot cleanups and achieving final cleanup objectives.

With the complete Proposed Plan, current and future investments aimed at restoring the Anacostia River, residents can look to a future where they can safely swim and play in what was once a degraded urban waterway. This is in part due to many restoration and planning efforts led by many partners over decades:

  • Smart Policy: DC’s 5¢ plastic bag fee (for 10 years) funds the Anacostia Clean Up and Protection Fund, as well as bans on foam food service ware containers and single-use plastic straws helps keep trash out of the river.
  • Major Infrastructure: DC Water’s “Clean Rivers Project” is a $1.75 billion sewage diversion tunnel system that can hold 100-million-gallons of stormwater during rain events in a 7.7 mile long, 23-foot wide tunnel. In its first 15 months of operation over 5.6 billion gallons of sewage has been diverted from the river!
  • Less Litter: 9 “trash traps” capture trash and debris carried by stormwater from city streets before they enter the river. Dumpbusters expansion to 5&6D Environmental Crimes Unit, hot spots determined and monitored by solar cameras to bust and deter illegal dumping
  • Citizen Science Monitoring: Volunteer water quality data collection at 22 sites in all 8 wards that helps DOEE track bacteria to expand recreation safety on the Anacostia, Potomac and Rock Creek for residents
  • Mussel Restoration: Re-introducing 35,000 mussels into the river to increase water quality and promote diversity of native mussel species to sustainably clean waterways
  • Anacostia River Pool Initiative: Studies the feasibility of creating a permanent swimming facility along the Anacostia waterfront anacostiariverpool.com/study

The ARSP document library, historical information and frequently asked questions can be found on anacostiasedimentproject.com. The first of four public meetings will occur on January 23. RSVP and event information is available here.