D.C. Enforces 'Pollution Diet' on Anacostia River

The U.S. EPA is taking action on the amount of litter in the Anacostia River, imposing a “diet” that will require 1.2 million pounds of trash to be removed each year. It is the second river in the U.S. to receive a trash limit.

Under the EPA's new ruling, 1.2 million pounds of trash will be removed from the Anacostia River each year. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The new ruling is for aesthetic reasons to limit the presence of litter, as well as an effort to protect the river’s wildlife that can be harmed by hard-to-decompose garbage. Under the enforcement of the Clean Water Act, trash removal will begin in 2011.

Another aspect of this campaign will be a litter prevention public awareness campaign, including distribution in D.C., Arlington and Fairax in Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. The costs of the campaign have not been announced.

“The level of support for this pollution limit is impressive,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson. “Getting the requirements in place to meet the pollution limits required support from Montgomery County to come to fruition, and we appreciate the County’s hard work.”

In a poll by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which oversees efforts to clean up the Potomac River Watershed, 17 percent of adults admitted to littering and 39 percent have seen others littering.

The Anacostia is not just affected by direct litter. It is a common source of stormwater runoff, where rains in the D.C. area will wash garbage and remnants of motor oil from city streets into the river.

Earlier this year, the nation’s capital passed a tax on plastic bags aimed to reduce the amount of litter in the city’s rivers. Consumers wishing to use a disposable plastic bag from a retailer or restaurant must pay 5 cents. A majority of that money goes to the Anacostia River Cleanup Fund.

In the first year of the program, the number of plastic bags distributed has fallen from 22 million to 3 million per month, and the tax has raised nearly $1 million since January.

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