Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Potomac River Gets a "D"

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River is charged with protecting the Potomac River. The Potomac River Basin has 5 million people - 75% of which live in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

The 44th District is one of the few legislative seats that actually touches the Potomac River although the basin probably takes in at least one-third of the General Assembly. In other words, the 44th is one of the areas at the receiving end of everyone else....
The Potomac River's annual grading is done by Ecocheck which is a joint project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Maryland for Environmental Science. They score the Potomac River on six metrics - three water quality indicators and three biotic indicators:
  1. Chlorophyll
  2. Dissolved oxygen
  3. Water clarity
  4. Aquatic Grasses
  5. Phytoplankton
  6. Bentic (bottom) communities

This year, both the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River took a step backwards. The Potomac backslid from a C to a D and the Chesapeake went to a C-. It was both systems first decline in four years. The Potomac grade reversed because of severe storms and high streamflows during the spring and early summer resulting in significant sediment deposits flowing into the creeks. Every single indicator declined. Poor water quality, ruins biotic indicators which resultingly hurts our fisheries.

All of this underscores the importance of getting Virginia's stormwater management under control. I have written before on this blog about the quality of Mount Vernon's steams.

The Dixie Pig, Plastic Bags & Mt. Vernon's Watersheds (Nov. 18, 2010)The Dixie Pig, Cleaning Up Quander Brook (May 9, 2010)

Quander Brook is biologically dead. One neighbor calls it a natural toilet bowl because of the stormwater that hits it during rain events. Paul Spring has fewer fish in it than I remember as a kid. Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek are full of trash and you can barely see inches below the water surface.

During our last session, I also argued against hiding pollution data during the session, but we created a Freedom of Information Act exemption for compliance data provided provided by polluters.

Sooner or later we need to get serious about controlling water pollution or the Potomac River will continue to suffer.


  1. I visit Belle Haven Park often to photograph wildlife. It's a disgrace to see all the trash, plastic, and fishing line that is EVERYWHERE.

    I pick up what I can, but unless the state or county is willing to loan me a dump truck.....

  2. Friends of Accotink Creek were sorry for the summary dispatch of the Bag Bill you sponsored last week. Friends' annual clean-ups fished 17000 plastic bags from the creek last year and there were plenty we couldn't reach - we think you can reach them, though, and look forward to working with you this year on a successful bill.