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The Anacostia River

((Banner: Healing the Anacostia River))
((Reporter/Camera: Jeff Swicord))
((Map: Washington DC))
((Main characters: 1 male))
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
Rivers are so important to not only the habitat, animals and
natural environment, but also to people. Rivers are typically
where we get our drinking water.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
I have been involved with environmental restoration work
almost my whole life and all of thats led me here having
worked on a whole plethora of projects all across the world.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
I was motivated to come here and work on the Anacostia
because I love clean water.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
We are here at Eastern Powerboat Club, one of four boat
clubs along the river. These yacht clubs were basically
African American yacht clubs. The first one was Seafarers
Yacht Club started by Eleanor Roosevelt.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
We are an urban river. Were a small watershed.
Watershed, of course, is that area of land within which all the
rain that falls comes to a common outfall.
((NATS: Jim Foster))
How youre doing, man?
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
There is almost a million people that live in our watershed.
And so, we have a much higher density. Weve really
pushed the limits on what we have done to this watershed.
So, we are out of balance here, but we are working hard to
bring it back.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
This three-box culvert is the combined sewer overflow for the
Northeast Boundary Tunnel. So, the district has what are
called combined sewers. And that means there is one pipe
that carries the sewage and the storm water. And so, we
have been discharging billions of gallons of raw sewage into
the river every time it rains.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
Our organization had an issue with that.
((NATS: Jim Foster))
There is an osprey up in the tree there.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
D.C. water today has been under a consent decree to stop
those overflows.
((NATS: Jim Foster and Man in the passing boat))
Another day in paradise.
You got it.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
Masaya Maeda, who is Japanese, has been with us for 17
years. He is our water quality expert. And so, every week
he goes out on the river to collect very basic water chemistry
data. He has a volunteer helper, a woman named Maria.
We have been collecting that data for 15 years now. So, we
have some solid data, some trends. We really use that to
build a state of the river report card.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
Our mission is to make the river swimmable and fishable by
2025. So, whats keeping us from swimming is purely high
bacteria levels. Where does the bacteria come from? It
comes from feces, from waste, human induced, goose, deer,
avian, all these contribute bacteria to the river. So, our river
is impaired with nitrogen and phosphorus. Why is that a
problem? Because it causes algae to grow prolifically and
that algae then consumes oxygen in the water and then
there is not enough oxygen for the fish.
((NATS: Jim Foster))
They are with the park and they run that passenger boat.
Not a lot of passengers in the boat right now.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
We have come so far in cleaning up this river, when people
who havent been here for 10, 15, 25 years, suddenly come
back. They are going, This isnt what we left. This is, you
know, not what we expected to see here. And the first thing
that has really started to come back are native freshwater
mussels. Mussels are also filter feeders.
((NATS: Jim Foster))
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
See if I cant get this up high enough just to show you what
we got here. So, you can see these mussels are doing
really well. They went in about the size of your fingernail
and this is a years worth of growth. Were working with the
University of Maryland to see if they will filter micro-plastics
out of the water as well. And we are also interested in
whether they will pick up and bind PCBs (Polychlorinated
Biphenyl) from the river.
((Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society))
So, the Anacostia River that I would like to see in ten years would
be a place where thousands of people come throughout the
weeks and summer months to get in the water. For me, it is a
very spiritual connection to not only the river and the banks and
the areas around it, but to clean water. Clean water is so critical
to life as we know it and, I think, as more people come back and
recognize that, they will appreciate and admire and honor the