News / Science & Technology

Potomac Named Most Endangered River

Potomac Named Most Endangered Riveri
|| 0:00:00
X
Deborah Block
June 09, 2012
The conservation group American Rivers says the Potomac River that runs through Washington is the most endangered river this year in the United States. The organization says that pollution in the Potomac is decreasing water quality, threatening marine life and will become worse if Congress rolls back national clean water protections. VOA's Deborah Block reports.

Potomac Named Most Endangered River

TEXT SIZE - +
The conservation group American Rivers says the Potomac River that runs through Washington is the most endangered river this year in the United States. The organization says that pollution in the Potomac is decreasing water quality, threatening marine life and will become worse if Congress rolls back national clean water protections.

The Potomac River is seen by hundreds of thousands each day as it flows under bridges and past memorials.  It is used for recreational activities, and provides drinking water for five million people.

Before the Potomac reaches Washington, it runs through farmland in four states, and continues on to the Chesapeake Bay, the country's largest estuary.  

All along its course, pollution undermines the river's water quality, says American Rivers President Bob Irvin.

"It flows through farmland, where pesticides are running off from the fields, where farm waste is running into the streams," said Irvin.  "Then as it makes its way down through the urban area of Washington, DC, we have runoff from our streets, and when it rains really hard we have raw sewage flowing into the river."

That runoff concerns Don Boesch, head of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.   He says it is creating dead zones where aquatic plants and marine life cannot survive.

"It's got low light penetration and sometimes lowest levels of oxygen in the water," Boesch noted.

He says before the river can become healthier, the nutrient runoff must be controlled.

"These are good things that stimulate life in the river, but they are actually in excess, so they cause lots of negative problems in the river," Boesch added.

A nearby coal powered electrical plant will close soon, but until then, it is putting toxic substances into the water and changing the habitat, says Whit Overstreet, with the environmental group, Potomac Riverkeepers.

"They discharge hot water back into the river that wouldn't be there naturally, which can be problematic for aquatic life," Overstreet noted.

Scientists have also found that chemicals appear to be causing intersexed fish - especially male fish with female traits. But fishing guide Steve Chaconas says he thinks the Potomac has improved from the filthy river it was years ago.

"The fish are very vibrant," said Chaconas.  "People are picking up after themselves, finally!"

American Rivers warns the Potomac and other rivers could backslide if the Clean Water Act of 1972 is weakened, a distinct possibility, says Irvin.

"Congressmen from various parts of the country, representing big agricultural interests and industry interests, are trying to weaken the act, trying to prohibit the federal government from protecting, for example, small headwater streams and wetlands, and from regulating the use of pesticides on farmland," Irvin explained.

Clean water advocacy groups are calling on Congress to kill any legislation that erodes those vital protections.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid