What We Do

As a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, advocacy work is at the center of everything we do on the Anacostia. From holding polluters accountable to removing current pollution and legacy toxins from the river, we are proud to serve as the community voice for the Anacostia. 

A majority of our current advocacy work focuses on returning the Anacostia to a swimmable and fishable river. With toxins impacting our ecosystems up and down the river, serious problems still plague our watershed. Additionally, trash and plastic pollution continue to afflict our streams. Our work is as important now as ever.

Anacostia Riverkeeper currently sits on numerous community groups and advisory panels hosted by District and Maryland governments. We’re proud to voice concerns for the watershed at every opportunity. Our Riverkeeper team is up-to-date on the most pressing issues and legislation facing the river in order to benefit you in the community.

A clean and healthy Anacostia needs all of our voices, and we hope you join us in making them heard!

Large metal letters filled with plastic bottles and cans spell out the words "#Trash Free DC" on a wooden foot bridge over the Anacostia River. ARK's work reducing trash is essential for the Anacostia River's health.

What You Can Do

As a community member in the watershed, your voice is the one we want to hear. Here are several ways that YOU can get involved in protecting the Anacostia:

1) Attend your local neighborhood/community meetings and raise your voice on maintaining a healthy Anacostia.

2) Sign up to receive Anacostia Riverkeeper’s monthly newsletter where you can stay up to date on recent watershed news.

3) Let us know if you spot any suspected pollution or any serious issue affecting the Anacostia.

3) Educate yourself on current policies and issues affecting the Anacostia River.

5) Know who your elected officials are, and let them know we are a community that values clean and healthy waterways!

Current Advocacy Issues

Anacostia River Sediment Project

The Anacostia River Sediment Project is focused on the cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Anacostia River. It is being implemented by the District’s Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) and the National Park Service (NPS). The project’s overall goal is to protect public health, protect the environment, and finally remove all toxic sediments from locations along the mainstem, Kingman Lake, and Washington Channel.

On September 30, 2020 DOEE released an Interim Record of Decision indicating the toxic hotspots and where cleanup would happen first. As of January 2024 cleanup has yet to begin.

A bald eagle gliding with outspread wings in the blue sky.

Trash and Plastic Pollution

Trash is one of the most recognizable pollutants in our watershed. Stormwater, sewage, and most noticeably, litter and debris flow into the river from the Anacostia’s many tributaries and storm drains. Infamously, the Anacostia is one of only three rivers in the United States that the EPA has deemed “impaired by trash” and imposed a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the river. Anacostia Riverkeeper’s work is vital to both Maryland and the District of Columbia in helping them meet this goal each year.

Beverage containers account for almost half of all trash collected. We advocate for a deposit-return system in DC, and support multiple bills in MD to help reduce plastic and other pollution in Anacostia River. Effective trash policies reduce litter at the source, minimizing trash that makes it to the river.

Through trash cleanups, innovative technologies like Bandalong® trash traps, and hard work from our volunteers, we are working towards a trash free Anacostia. 

Clean Waterways cleanups and advocacy for the Anacostia are key actions that Anacostia Riverkeeper takes to improve the water quality of the River.

Swimmable Anacostia

Swimming has been illegal in all DC waters since the 1970s, despite these waters being “Class A” waters, or waters designated for primary recreation. This came about because of poor local water quality and bacteria flowing into our waterways via sewage, leaky pipes, and pet waste. However, due to investments in infrastructure, today Anacostia water quality is better than it has been in years, making some wonder: when can we go swimming?

Swimming in the Anacostia used to be a popular pastime of the communities surrounding the  river, often serving as a safe and equitable space for DC and Maryland residents to enjoy nature, no matter race, culture, or gender. Today we believe that swimming on the Anacostia is right around the corner. We at Anacostia Riverkeeper believe swimming in the Anacostia should be legal, accessible, and most importantly, SAFE.

That’s why we work to provide up-to-date water quality data as well as support investment in dedicated swimming infrastructure.

Access and Development

With over 70% of the Anacostia watershed classified as developed, the Anacostia is under constant threat from urbanization and all the issues that come with it. From stormwater pollution to illegal dumping, pollution enters our waterways in many different ways. As a Riverkeeper organization we serve as your voice in the community. We hold polluters accountable as well as voice concerns on development plans, construction, or access issues that could impact our shared resource. A lot of the work we do also focuses on advocating for the needs of the Anacostia community.

Sign up below to receive vital action alerts of current environmental fights, court cases, legislation, and anything else that impacts the health of Anacostia.

an egret flying low over marshlands with large trees in the background.

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