Anacostia Watershed Blog

Stormwater Utility Fee= Watershed Protection and Restoration

By: Jim Foster, President

Recently AWS received our bill from Prince George's County DER for our stormwater fee.  At first we weren't sure what it was.  But quickly we found the fantastic brochure in the envelope that explained in simple terms what this fee is about.  I like the brochure so much, I scanned it and sent to my board with the comment "pinch me"!  Of course we immediately and proudly paid the bill. This money will be used to restore our waterways by installing natural features to control rainfall.

Indian Creek Experiences Flood & Sediment Event From Water Main Blowout

By: Mary Abe, Manager of Stewardship

On Saturday morning July 20th, Neil Gehrels, AWS member and donor, noted that at the confluence of  Indian Creek and Paint Branch at Lake Artemesia, Indian Creek was at its flood stage as well as butterscotch in color-indicative of sediment runoff.  Paint Branch was at normal stream stage with no signs extreme sedimentation. No rain events had occurred so Mr. Gehrels contacted AWS to investigate.

The Problem With Fishing For Catfish in the Anacostia River

By: Veronica Pereira, Stewardship intern

You might be asking yourself, “What could be so bad about fishing for catfish in the Anacostia?” The answer is that it’s not the actual act of fishing in the Anacostia that is bad. The problem with fishing for catfish is that if the catfish are consumed, they may cause serious health effects on those who eat them. 

Brown bullheads like this one are commonly caught from the Anacostia River by anglers and used for consumption (including people at greater risk such as pregnant women and children). These fish are known to have carcinogens in their bodies making their consumption a potential and worrisome public health issue.

The American Shad Season

By: Cooper Breeden, Stewardship Intern

What better way to have welcomed spring than with the arrival of American shad! Shad are an anadromous species, meaning they live in the oceans and migrate into freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. Other well known anadromous species include Striped Bass and Salmon.  After spawning, adult shad return to the ocean and the juveniles remain in the freshwater until autumn when they swim to the ocean where they will live for a few years until mature. Shad begin their migration once the river temperatures reach the mid-50s, which typically happens sometime at the end of March. This year the winter was unusually long, so the shad run did not begin until mid April.

AWS Trashology – Topic 1: What is a number one trash item found in streams?


Some say grocery store plastic bags are the #1 trash item.  Others say plastic bottles, while still others say styrofoam.  What is really the number one trash item found?

A short answer to this question is it depends on where you are and how data is collected.  Another short answer is that all statements are correct.

When you walk along a tributary to a larger river such as the Anacostia River, you will likely see plastic bags and assume this is our #1 trash item.  Plastic bags are easily snagged by vegetation such as tree branches, so they are often seen in and along tributaries.  Jim Collier and Cynthia Collier, contractors for the AWS, conducted a survey and wrote a report on trash in 2008 titled ANACOSTIA WATERSHED TRASH REDUCTION PLAN.  According to their survey, approximately 47% of trash pieces that were counted in streams were plastic grocery bags-- the #1 category.

Wildlife in the Urban Jungle, the Resilient Red Fox

By: Maryn Foreman, Spring Stewardship Intern

Red foxes are everywhere, maybe even in your backyard! The red fox has become accustomed to an urban habitat by using sheds for nests, eating exposed garbage and mice. Since mice are abundant in cities, the fox offers great rodent control. It has been documented that fox even live longer in urban environments. The coyote and bald eagle are some other natural predators native to this area, but they do not adapt as well to the urban environment, giving the fox a competitive advantage.

Illustration: Dorling Kindersley, Getty Images.

AWS Trashology - Preface


Plastic Bags captured by Nash Run Trash Trap


Due to the frustration of both AWS and volunteers who have been picking up trash over and over along our river’s shores, I was given a project in 2008 to design and install a trash trap in a small stream called Nash Run that flows through parts of Prince George’s County and the northeast area of Washington, D.C.  The goal is to catch the trash around the mouth of the stream before it is carried into the tidal portion of the Anacostia via Kenilworth Marsh especially during heavy rains.  

Legacy Toxics, Look Out!

Anacostia River.

Joining the efforts of many in returning the Anacostia River to an ecologically healthy state, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is once again taking the lead on the issue of contaminated sediments, but this time on a much larger scale. DDOE recently announced that it will conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) of the sediments in the entire stretch of the Anacostia River!

Green Waters, Nasty Waters

This past Wednesday, we headed to the woods of Pope Branch, a small tributary of the Anacostia River in SE DC, with employees from DC Water. During our invasive plant removal event last Saturday, part of DC Invasives Day, I spotted an evident sewage leak in the creek. A light gray color, with nasty odors and the presence of a pale scum inhabited by Tubifex worms, was a clear sign of raw sewage. The nasty gray waters were seeping out of the steep stream banks of the Pope Branch, dying the clear waters coming from upstream with the nasty stuff. Sewage pollution from a leak like this one is the last thing our river needs! Sewage is known to possess a myriad of nasty substances and pathogens that could impair a small waterway like Pope Branch very easily. Sewage contains nutrients that can cause algal blooms that end up depleting the dissolved oxygen in the water, it also contains chemicals like detergents and all the drugs (legal and illegal) that people consume.

Mt. Rainier Storm Drain Painting Call for Artists

As spring arrives and the accompanying rains begin to fall, our attention might be drawn to all the water flowing over the impervious surfaces and into the storm drains surrounding us near our homes, offices, and everywhere else we look. The storm drains are not much to look at in most places -- but my capstone project, which I am undertaking as part of my position as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteer, seeks to change that in the city of Mt. Rainier, MD.

I first heard of storm drain paintings when I was an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Colorful patterns and designs started popping up all over the storm drains in downtown Lexington but, beyond a simple artist’s mark, there was no indication of what the project was about.

An artistic storm drain in Lexington, KY.

One of the artistic storm drains in Lexington, KY (Lexington Street Sweeper)



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