Five issues dominate the restoration efforts for the Anacostia Watershed.
- Polluted Runoff (Stormwater) - Pavement and impermeable landscapes alter the way in which rain interacts with the earth. Rain, nature's lifeblood, gets diverted into storm drains and becomes a delivery method that carries surface pollutants into the river.
- Trash - Trash is more than just an eyesore. Hundreds of tons of trash load up our river and tributary streams. Plastic bottles, styrofoam, furniture, and shopping carts - these all makes the river unsafe for wildlife and humans. Trash is expensive to remove and negatively impacts the aesthetics in addition to the well-being of communities.
- Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) - A sewer system that is over 150 years old releases two billion gallons of untreated sewage mixed with stormwater into the Anacostia River each year. This happens even when it rains half an inch to an inch in a short period of time. CSO events raise fecal coliform bacteria, trash, and sediments to unhealthy levels in the river.
- Toxics - Toxic chemicals such as PCBs, PAHs, and pesticides have a legacy of contaminating the river and poisoning wildlife. Up to two-thirds of the brown bullhead catfish in the river have cancerous tumors and/or lesions, and the toxins in their tissues can be passed on to humans when consumed. Of recent concern in our waterways are pharmaceutical chemicals, “endocrine disruptors," that can cause male fish to grow eggs.
- Environmental Justice - Low income communities and minorities often bear the disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences that result from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations/policies. Flowing through the poorest neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, the Anacostia River has been the nation’s forgotten river. National parklands in its watershed are now abandoned toxic dumps. Furthermore, communities bear the health risks of living near power plants and landfills. Parents who taught their kids to swim in the river no longer dare to go near it.
- Subsistence Fishing - Thousands of anglers consume and share toxic Anacostia fish. Many are frequently unaware of fish advisories and often unconcerned about risks from fish consumption.
"Our nation's rivers belong to everybody, not just the people who can afford front row seats. " Anacostia Riverkeeper