- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

It will take more than the letter signed by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman to clean up the Anacostia River, the most polluted river on the Chesapeake Bay Program's clean water list.
Local leaders signed a similar letter 18 years ago in 1983, and little was done to purify the Anacostia, which Peter J. Marx of the EPA called the No. 1 polluter of the Chesapeake Bay.
This time it may be different, however, if Mr. Williams' sentiment carries any weight.
"We need to get off our [duffs] and work for our children's future," said an animated Mr. Williams at the signing ceremony yesterday. Mr. Williams called himself "a big river person who has canoed in rivers all over the country."
Airing out the stench from the Blue Plains Treatment Facility, which often wafts across the Potomac and reaches the balconies of upscale homes on the Alexandria waterfront, is not as high on the priority list as continuing to attack the runoff of nutrient pollutants and toxic chemicals that still flow into the Anacostia.
"The Potomac River is actually in pretty good shape, and the Bay is getting better everyday," Mr. Marx said.
The Anacostia is a whole different problem altogether. Right now, the Anacostia fails every water clarity test the Chesapeake Bay Program has conducted on the rivers and tributaries of the Bay.
Officials estimate it could take as much as $10 billion to reduce the 300 million pounds of nutrient pollutants now leeching into the Bay to 185 million pounds by 2010 a deadline imposed by federal law.
As much as $2.5 billion of that will be spent on the Anacostia's problems. So far, the foundation has restored 40 acres of wetlands at Kingman Lake, and plans are under way to repair a sea wall to control sediment and upgrade the city's stormwater-sewage system to limit runoff pollution.
Mr. Williams was installed yesterday as the new chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council a position which allows him to set the agenda for 2002.
Whether Montgomery and Prince George's counties share Mr. Williams' enthusiasm is a matter of doubt in the minds of some conservationists.
Jim Connolly, executive director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, found the anti-pollution promises made by Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan hard to swallow. Both men committed their counties' yesterday to rein in the building of strip malls, highways and town house developments all necessary restrictions if stormwater runoff is to be brought under control, Mr. Connolly said.
Mr. Duncan's county is one of the richest and fastest-growing jurisdictions in the nation, according to recent U.S. Census reports. Mr. Curry has spent the majority of his two administrations calling for the kinds of development Mr. Connolly said will do the most harm. Prince George's is the nation's richest black county.
Mr. Connolly said his organization is "never satisfied" with the efforts of local officials. "I am hopeful that this is more than the normal rhetoric," Mr. Connolly said. "But when I see progress on trash abatement, stormwater control and smarter [development] zoning, then I'll be convinced."
He was impressed with the enthusiasm of Mr. Williams.
Part of Mr. Williams' 1998 mayoral campaign was a promise to revitalize the neighborhoods, which, in Ward 7, meant cleaning up "the historic [Anacostia] river where the U.S. Navy was founded and [which] the home of black abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass overlooks," Mr. Williams said.
In April Mr. Williams spent $12,000 to have an abandoned, partially sunken barge lifted out of the Anacostia River during Earth Week.. He watched from a nearby boat as a large crane hoisted the eyesore from the heavily polluted river. The 30-foot derelict barge was the third to be lifted from the river in the past year.
The Democratic mayor envisioned the Anacostia, which borders the National Arboretum, as a place for family recreation.
Unfortunately, he said, the river has mostly served as a dumping ground. The Anacostia, which had run as deep as 50 feet in some areas, is now barely six feet deep in some spots, the mayor said, adding that the Anacostia was ignored after a major cleanup of the Potomac in the 1960s.
H.J. Brier contributed to this report.

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