The Maryland Department of the Environment and the D.C. Department of the Environment, with help from the Environmental Protection Agency, took a major step this April to ignite the trash cleanup effort in the Anacostia by proposing a plan that would require the removal of solid waste from the river.
Called a total maximum daily load of trash, it is just the second of its kind to be proposed for a river. In 2007, California’s Water Quality Control Board cooperated on a similar mandate from the EPA for the Los Angeles River.
Total maximum daily loads for other types of pollutants, such as bacteria, heavy metals and oil and grease, have been created for waterways throughout the United States. Those mandates establish how much of a pollutant can exist in a body of water, putting it into compliance with Clean Water Act water quality standards.
Maximum daily loads for sediment, fecal coliform, oil and grease and heavy metals have all been set for the Anacostia in the past decade. The Anacostia’s daily trash load is different, though. Instead of declaring how much trash can safely enter the river, this one gives the District and Maryland an amount of trash that must be removed from the Anacostia each day.
The proposed language says the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties must collectively remove 1,189 pounds of trash a day from the Anacostia and its tributaries. That adds up to more than 1.2 million pounds of garbage a year.
The District and Maryland submitted a draft of their plan to the EPA in April. A final report was submitted Sept. 7, said Gregory Voigt, an EPA coordinator, who oversaw the day-to-day development of the Anacostia’s trash limit. The EPA should sign off on it in late September, he said.
Also working toward the cleanup goal is the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership, a coalition of government officials, advocacy groups, environmental agencies and business leaders, which announced a $1.7 billion plan in April that includes more than 3,000 proposed projects dealing with storm water management, stream restoration and trash cleanup.
All three municipalities within the Anacostia watershed have either passed, drafted or are working on stringent, new storm water permits that will curtail the amount of solid and bacterial pollution from entering the watershed.
In addition, to help meet trash-reduction goals, city officials on Jan. 1 enacted the 5-cent fee on plastic bags distributed at stores within the District of Columbia – an attempt to push shoppers to use reusable bags.
According to the Office of Tax and Revenue, stores in the District distributed three million plastic bags in the first quarter of 2010, down from an expectation of 22 million bags that would have been distributed without the fee.
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, the Ward 6 representative who sponsored the Anacostia initiative, estimates the fee will raise upward of $3 million in 2010, which will be directed toward cleanup efforts. Before the bag fee was implemented, plastic bags made up nearly 21 percent of the trash in the main stem of the Anacostia, Wells says.
“The bags were something that were free; they had no value, so people felt free to toss them on the ground,” Bolin said. “Now, people can realize that maybe they don’t need these things.”
Stevens’ main selling point to developers who want to build in Near Southeast is the chance to be part of not only a new neighborhood, but one where residents don’t need to own a car and where they can contribute to the Anacostia’s restoration effort.
“We tout that environmental sustainability is part of our community DNA,” Stevens said. “All of our stakeholders are building LEED certified buildings.” LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize development and construction done in the most environmentally sound ways possible.
Capitol Riverfront officials say more than 30 of the existing or planned buildings in the neighborhood are LEED certified. Examples of environmentally sound and low-impact development exist throughout the riverfront area. Nationals Park was the first professional sports venue in North America to be designated as LEED Silver, making it the greenest ballpark in America.
The stadium boasts such features as a green roof, which can capture storm water before it reaches the Anacostia, and onsite storm water filters. Recycled construction material made up 20 percent of the total structure.
The Yards, which will front directly onto the Anacostia, will upon completion boast a riverfront park, 2,800 residential units, nearly 1.8 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of shopping and dining, said Gary McManus, the marketing director for Forest City Washington, The Yards’ developer.
The first stage of the 42-acre mixed-use development – the waterfront park – opened Sept. 7. “This is going to be one of Washington’s avant garde neighborhoods,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, at the opening ceremony for the 5.5-acre park.
With all of new development, though, comes the danger of setting back the restoration efforts of the nearby river.
“This is a massive test,” said Dana Minerva, executive director of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership. “There are some developers who would say that if it costs a dime more, we’re going to oppose it.
“And there are some developers saying, as some recently have, ‘Show us that it’s practicable and we can do it, because we like our rivers to be clean just as everyone else does.'”