- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Anacostia River, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day as they enter the District from Maryland, is in sad shape. A number of concerned groups say the federal Environmental Protection Agency must shoulder much of the blame.

The Potomac Riverkeeper, Ed Merrifield; the Anacostia Riverkeeper, Dottie Yunger; and the environmental group Friends of the Earth are being represented by public interest law firm Earthjustice. It has filed separate lawsuits to challenge what they call inadequate pollution caps that were approved by the EPA. The caps affect the tidal Potomac River and the Anacostia, both of which run through much of the District.

The lawsuit argues that the EPA-approved pollution caps for sediment, bacteria, metals and other pollutants in the Anacostia and Potomac fail to meet federal Clean Water Act requirements.

More than 5 billion gallons of storm-water drain into the Anacostia each year, bringing trash, silt and chemical residue from the river’s 176-square-mile watershed. Then there’s the Potomac, which contains high levels of bacteria, metals, sediment and trash as a result of clean water permit violations, sewer overflows and uncontrolled storm water.

“We are working to restore the Potomac and Anacostia rivers so that people can safely swim in the rivers and enjoy their bounty year-round,” said Jennifer Chavez, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Before we can achieve that goal, we need strong pollution limits.”

Said Katie Renshaw, another attorney for the group: “Our goal is to protect the health of residents in our nation’s capital. There are serious health hazards from the pollutants being dumped. Several of these unlawful limits address bacteria which come from human and animal waste and can lead to a variety of sicknesses. So it is imperative for the health of our community that we keep our rivers free from these wastes.”

From years of dealing with area waters, I can add that the Anacostia was home to some of the most significant spawning runs of herring anywhere many springs ago. The river also had resident populations of perch and bass. Those spawning runs are gone. If you catch a bass in the Anacostia, it’s something you talk about for a long time.

Does that tell us anything? The place is a sewer, not a river, and it’s not helping the Potomac that it flows into.

Maryland trout schedule available - The 2009 Maryland DNR spring trout stocking will see nearly 326,000 added to certain waters in the state. The DNR urges continued vigilance by anglers to prevent the spread of whirling disease and other issues that can affect the trout. Anglers should phone 800/688-3467 for stocking updates, or they can pick up a stocking schedule at local tackle shops and DNR service centers. A schedule with maps and directions to stocked locations is online at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries.

Beware, boaters who drinkA week ago, a 32-year-old Rockville resident was found guilty in Worcester County, Md., District Court for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol, operating a vessel in a reckless or dangerous manner and negligent operation of a vessel. The incident occurred in July.

The man was on the controls of a 21-foot fiberglass ski boat when he struck an abutment of the Route 90 Bridge in Ocean City. The Natural Resources Police, the Ocean City Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the scene and rescued all 10 occupants from the water. The court sentenced the operator to 60 days in jail (30 days were suspended), a $500 fine, three years’ supervised probation and 40 hours of community service.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Visit Mueller’s Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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