News / USA

    Young People Learn to Protect Trashed Rivers

    Young People Learn to Protect Trashed Waterwaysi
    X
    June 07, 2013 1:12 PM
    Twenty thousand tons of trash are thrown into the Anacostia every year. It turns into a toxic brew including sewage overflows and runoff from driveways, sidewalks and streets. National Fishing and Boating Week in the United States is an opportunity to create new stewards to help protect natural waterways like the Anacostia. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
    Rosanne Skirble
    National Fishing and Boating Week (June 3-10) in the United States is an annual celebration that encourages Americans to get out and enjoy the nation’s rivers and streams.

    At a kick-off event on the Anacostia River in Washington, it was also an opportunity to create new stewards to help protect these natural waterways.

    Outdoor classroom

    Several hundred Washington school children went to class on the Anacostia River, where they were greeted on a pier not far from the U.S. Capitol by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel.

    The children fan out across the pier, just steps from Washington's  baseball stadium. While many have gone to a baseball game, fewer have boated or fished on the river. Some don lifejackets for a boat  ride with Jewel. Others model boats out of aluminum foil, talk to naturalists or get a fishing lesson.

    Cleaning Up the Anacostia River
    Cleaning Up the Anacostia Riveri
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    While it's fun to fish, these kids won’t take fish home. That’s because the Anacostia is among the nation’s most polluted waterways. A recent study finds that more than half of all bottom feeders on the river, like catfish, have liver tumors and another quarter have visible lesions.  

    Trashed river

    Dennis Chestnut grew up on the river and now he runs Groundwork Anacostia River DC. The group links community development to the health of the waterway.  

    “It’s an opportunity for these kids to see this trash, and I’m quite sure that some will begin asking questions," he said. "Why is this trash here?”

    Bladensburg Park is a less polluted stretch of the Anacostia about five kilometers away in Maryland. Two hundred years ago, the port rivaled New York in size and silt from development logged the waterway and, as the population grew, so did pollution.  

    "There [are] a million people that live in this tiny watershed that is 176 square miles [456 square kilometers]," said Lee Cain of the Anacostia Watershed Society. "And because there are so many people, there is so much impact."

    Looking forward

    At Kennilworth Park, a former landfill that is now a grassy field, Cain and Chestnut go down a stepp hill to a stream that feeds the Anacostia. Chestnut's group manages a little trap in the stream and Cain goes knee deep into the muck to help clean it up.

    "Eighty percent of the trash in the Anacostia is bottles, Styrofoam or plastic bags," Cain said.

    • Washington school children get a boat ride on the Anacostia River with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the kickoff event for National Fishing and Boating Week. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer Eric Lawton gives Makayla Gray her first fishing lesson on the Anacostia. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
    • The trash strewn riverfront is across the street from the Nationals Baseball Park and adjacent to the Washington Navy Yard.  It was named a hazardous waste site because of contamination. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
    • Volunteers do service projects to rebuild the wetland in the Anacostia River. (Anacostia Watershed Society)
    • Groundwork Anacostia River director Dennis Chestnut talks with Washington residents Trevon Brox and Antony Smith about jobs on the river. (Rosanne Skirble/VOA)
    • This watershed protection team services the litter traps on the Anacostia managed by Groundwork Anacostia River, DC. (Groundwork Anacostia River, DC)
    • While plastic bottles remain a major problem, a law that puts a fee on disposable bags has dramatically helped reduce the number of plastic bags in the river. (Groundwork Anacostia River DC)
    • The smokestacks from a closed power plant are a grim reminder of the toxic pollutants that flow into the river. (Groundwork Anacostia)
    • With renewed conservation efforts, wildlife is returning to the Anacostia. Boaters frequently see birds like this snowy egret. (Anacostia Watershed Society)
    • Sections of the Anacostia have become a paddler’s delight, like this scene near Bladensburg Park in Maryland. (Anacostia Watershed Society)

    He loads trash bags with the bottles and throws balls lodged in the trap to Chestnut, who is standing on the bank talking to Trevon Brox, 18, and Anthony Smith, 19, who've come prospecting for jobs.  

    “One of the things that this opportunity proves to guys like you, who are young guys, who have a whole lot of work time in front of you," Chestnut said to them, "this is good honest work, does a great service and you can earn income.”

    Brox and Smith live nearby, but grew up largely ignoring the river and are shocked by what they see.
     
    “This is my first time I’ve really been up close and that’s a sticky situation down there,” Brox said. "We all need to come together and stand up and keep our environment clean because that's a safety hazard."

    “To be honest," Smith said, "I never even knew there was a park here, never really knew about the river or anything.”

    Toxic brew

    Twenty thousand tons of trash are thrown into the Anacostia every year. It turns into a toxic brew including sewage overflows and runoff from driveways, sidewalks and streets.

    Chestnut says the litter traps he manages barely make a dent in the pollution. But, he adds, what they can do is get people like Brox and Smith to care enough to do something about it.   
     
    “The goal is to get the river to the point that it’s fishable and swimmable," Chestnut said. "What it is going to take is getting everyone engaged at whatever level that they can become engaged, from the youngest to the oldest, to do their part.”

    The health of the Anacostia and rivers like it around the country and around the world depend on that commitment.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora