Potomac River Named 'Most Endangered' by Environmental Watchdog

American Rivers has issued an annual report on America’s Most Endangered Rivers since 1986.

The Potomac River is America's "Most Endangered River" according to environmental watchdog organization, American Rivers.

The Potomac, which runs some 380 miles across five states, was number one on the America’s Most Endangered Rivers list of 10 rivers that span 15 states.

The main threat facing the Potomac is pollution like "agricultural operations, urban runoff from streets and parking lots, and other contaminants in the water, such as pharmaceuticals," according to the report.

While the report recognizes the progress made in reclaiming the Potomac's waters from their previous state as a "cesspool," it warns that progress could be lost if the Clean Water Act is overturned or weakened.

“If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time when the Potomac and rivers nationwide were too polluted and dangerous to use” said Irvin.

District entities are doing their part to reduce harmful pollution to the Potomac. DC Water, to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, has begun the Clean Rivers Project to address Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). CSO happens when pipes that handle both storm water and wastewater see a surge greater than their capacity during a heavy rain or snow, which sends both types of sewer water straight into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. 

The , the most significant proposal would involve the creation of a massive 58 million gallon tunnel, the Potomac Storage Tunnel. This tunnel would have a greater capacity to hold an influx of storm water and would carry wastewater and storm water from Georgetown to an upgraded Potomac Pumping Station. But the plan for the Potomac is still in the planning stages and years away from being a reality.

Just this year the Potomac River received the grade of a "D" for water quality from the 2011 Chesapeake Bay report card released last month. The barely passing grade held steady from the previous year and was a half grade higher than the Chesapeake Bay itself, which earned a "D-". The annual report card is issued based on joint research by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Residents of the Washington D.C. metro area– including the President and Congress– need to realize they are composed mostly of Potomac River water and they need to protect and enforce the laws that safeguard their health,” Ed Merrifield, president of Potomac Riverkeeper, said in a prepared statement.

To learn more, go to American Rivers' feature on the Potomac River

Below is the full list of rivers, including the impacted states and the threats and risks as offered in the report:

1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution
At risk: Clean water and public health
2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat
3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries
4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety
5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife
6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health
7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation
8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation
9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health.
10: Kansas River (KS)

Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat


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