Potomac Conservancy Says River’s Health Has Improved

But there’s still a long way to go.



Silver Spring, Md (KM). Some dramatic imrpovements have been reported  in the health of the Potomac River. The Potomac Conservancy says the  river’s grade went from a D to a B in ten years. The organization says pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment have declined, and native species such as the bald eagle and the American shad are returning. In addition,the protection of farmlands and forests is increasing.

“Certainly, some of the success are a result of several decades of focus on clean water improvements, such as upgrading waste water treatment plants,” says Hedrick Belin, the President of the Potomac Conservancy.

But the river has a long way to go before it can receive an A. “The biggest challenge right now, in terms of pollution, is coming from hardenend surfaces,” Belin. says. “Surfaces when it rains can’t absorb the rainwater when it falls, and instead wash pollution down into local rivers and streams.”

And another problems, he says, has to do with funding to pay for clean water initiatives. “But the big issue is clean water funding is under attack. And without that funding, this comeback for all the region’s rivers and streams could stall,or even reverse,” says Belin.  He encourages citizens to contact their members of Congress, and urge them to support funding for water cleanup initiatives.

He says local governments can help reduce runoff pollution by redeveloping municipal areas instead of placing growth in outlying areas. “Building up rather than out. And in the future, planning cluster growth hubs, and also identifying important stream corridors to protect,” says Belin.

He says Frederick County  has done a lot to help cleanup the Potomac. “Frederick has done a great job creating an innovative green homes challenge that certainly helps residents make a difference, encouraging people to take steps like rain garden planting and river friendly lawn maintenance,” says Belin.

But Frederick County needs to continue its work in helping reduce pollution in the river. “Frederick certainly needs to continue to look at upgrading its waste water treatment plants,” he says. “Some attention has been paid to, but the job hasn’t been finished yet.”

The Potomac Conservancy says other challenges facing the river are invasive species, underwater grasses and water quality being slow to recover,  and the decline of tree plantings along vulnerable streams which slows the Potomac’s recovery.


By Kevin McManus