News / Science & Technology

Potomac Named Most Endangered River

Potomac Named Most Endangered Riveri
|| 0:00:00
X
Deborah Block
June 09, 2012 12:16 PM
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

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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid