In an announcement that's as laden with symbolism as rivers are with sediment, American Rivers has named the Potomac River, which flows through the nation's capital, the most endangered river in the United States.
"America’s Most Endangered Rivers," the annual report from the clean water advocacy group, noted that the Potomac is under increasing threat from pollution caused by urban development and agricultural fertilizer. The river, which flows 380 miles from West Virginia through Washington D.C., provides five million people with drinking water. The report says that pollution is threatening water quality and killing marine life, and the situation will only get worse if Congress rolls back regulations in the Clean Water Act. House Republicans have introduced a variety of proposals to strike provisions from the act, none of which have made it through the Senate.
The report placed the Potomac atop nine other rivers nationwide, including the Green River, the largest feeder to the Colorado River, the Chattahoochee River, which runs by Atlanta, and the Missouri River, which flooded the Midwest last year.
The Potomac River played a crucial role in the development of the Clean Water Act. As Derek Markham writes at Treehugger:
Back in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to the Potomac River as "a national disgrace," because at the time, the river was a cesspool of industrial chemicals and sewage. This sentiment by President Johnson was one of the catalysts for the Clean Water Act of 1972, which has been working to protect and preserve rivers such as the Potomac for the last 40 years.
Since the passing of the Clean Water Act 40 years ago, plenty of progress has been achieved in eliminating some of the more visible pollution entering the Potomac. But clearly there is much more to be done.
You can help ensure clean water and healthy communities by voicing your support for the Clean Water Act. Click here to sign the American Rivers petition.
Photo: The Potomac River at Great Falls, 15 miles from Washington D.C. (Terry J. Adams)