Anacostia River Urban Watershed
The Anacostia River watershed is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 85% of which resides within Maryland and 15% within the District of Columbia. The water quality reflects years of damage caused by urban pollution and habitat destruction. Poor water quality and impaired aquatic habitats make the river unhealthy. The Anacostia River watershed is one of EPA's Targeted Watersheds, eligible for grants designed to support the protection and restoration of urban water resources through a holistic watershed approach to water quality management.
Anacostia Watershed Society's (AWS) 15th Annual Trash Cleanup and Earth Day Celebration happened on Saturday, 4/18/09 at Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Bladensburg, MD. Volunteers removed 59 tons of trash and floating debris from 30 sites along the river in one day.
Designated as "impaired by trash" in early 2007, the Anacostia is only the second river in the United States to receive this dubious recognition with an estimated 20,000 tons or trash and debris entering the river each year. After cleaning up, volunteers and the public celebrated the day with food, live entertainment, and community spirit. Tote bag giveaways helped to reduce plastic bag waste.
EPA's Mid Atlantic Region was one of the sponsors of the event along with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Bladensburg Waterfront Park staff who helped to support the event.
U.S. EPA REGION 3
Urban River Restoration Initiative
Spring 2008 Update
Once a historically and ecologically rich treasure nestled in our nation's capital, the Anacostia River reflects years of damage caused by urbanization and pollution. Poor water quality and impaired aquatic habitats make the river unhealthy and in need of a comprehensive, strategically-focused restoration plan.
The Anacostia Watershed resides within the Chesapeake Bay basin, 85% within Maryland (Prince George's and Montgomery Counties) and 15% within the District of Columbia. Its 176 square-mile drainage area is formed by two major tributaries, the Northwest and Northeast Branches. Downstream of the confluence of these two streams, the Anacostia becomes a channelized freshwater tidal river, which flows approximately 8.4 miles before joining with the Potomac River. The Anacostia is one of the most densely populated watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay Basin. The slow pace of the River and shallow depth contribute to its problems in that pollutants are not readily flushed from the system and settle and concentrate in the lower reaches.
EPA and dedicated partners in Maryland and the District of Columbia have worked together for over 20 years to bring about improvements in pollution control and watershed health. Interstate agreements were signed by Prince George's and Montgomery counties, District of Columbia, and Maryland elected officials in 1987, 1997 and 2000. A report to Congress prepared by EPA in 1992 recommended a greater federal role in the cleanup due to the sizable federal lands and interstate nature of the management plan. EPA formally became a voting member of the Watershed Restoration Committee in 1996. In June, 2006, a new restoration governance structure, the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (the Partnership or AWRP), was established to address chronic problems of: 1) inadequate inter-jurisdictional and intra-jurisdictional coordination and implementation capabilities, 2) insufficient long-term funding support and 3) credibility problems with the watershed’s citizenry. The key elements of the Partnership are: (1) the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Leadership Council; (2) the Anacostia Watershed Steering Committee; (3) the Anacostia Watershed Comprehensive Restoration Plan; and (4) the Anacostia Watershed Management Committee. The Council is responsible for the adoption and periodic revisions to a Comprehensive Anacostia Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan, which quantifies the restoration goals, specifies an implementation timeline and provides measurements of progress, with appropriate recognition and incorporation of related planning activities. EPA is represented on the Leadership Council and the Steering and Management Committees and on sub-committees as appropriate. Other active Federal agencies include the US Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A number of nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and citizens in the Anacostia watershed work with the Partnership, as well.
The River is no longer the forgotten river. Major restoration efforts underway are beginning to improve conditions, but years of continued commitment are needed to bring about a substantial improvement in the health of the system.
Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control in the District of Columbia The sewer system in the District of Columbia consists of separate and sanitary storm sewers. No new sewers have been constructed since the 1900's. Approximately one third (12,478 acres) of the District is served by combined sewers. During dry weather conditions, sewage from homes and businesses are conveyed to the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant, the largest advanced wastewater treatment system in the world, where wastewater is treated prior to discharge to the Potomac River. During wet weather, when the capacity of the combined sewer is exceeded, the excess flow, which is a mixture of sewage and storm water runoff, is discharged to the Anacostia, and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek and tributary waters. There are a total of 53 CSOs in the combined sewer system listed in WASA's NPDES permit. Blue Plains is the largest single discharger to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. WASA has developed a comprehensive plan called the Long Term Control Plan (LTCP), predicted to cost nearly $2.5 billion. This significant public works project is being overseen through a federal consent decree that EPA signed with DC Water and Sewer Authority in 2004. It will take approximately 20 years to upgrade and build the new CSO system. This system is expected to reduce CSO's by 98% on a system-wide basis; eliminate 14 CSO outfalls (4 in the Anacostia watershed) by separation and consolidation; decrease the number of Anacostia overflows from 82 to 2 per average year; reduce the number of days where the predicted fecal coliform concentration rises above 200/100 ml from 239 days to 182 days; reduce the number of days dissolved oxygen falls below 5mg/l from 93 to 66; and virtually eliminate solids and floatables. EPA continues to monitor and enforce its provisions which will have a dramatic effect on the quality of the tidal river.
Pollution Budgets (TMDLs) Being Completed for DC and Maryland
Total Maximum Daily Load allocations or TMDLs are formal pollution budgets for a water body which assign the levels of reduction necessary to meet water quality standards. EPA along with Maryland and the District have been working to put TMDLs in place for the Anacostia River and to effectively coordinate the technical assumptions to ensure consistency in approach across state lines. By the end of FY2008, the District of Columbia and EPA will have completed requirements for TMDLs under federal consent agreements in the Anacostia Watershed. A total of 173 TMDLs have been approved by EPA for the Anacostia River with 162 in DC waters and 11 in MD waters.
Water segments that were approved or determined not to require a TMDL are enumerated as follows: bacteria, oil & grease, BOD, nutrients, TSS, PCB, organics and metals TMDLs for the Anacostia main stem segments; organics, bacteria, and TSS TMDLs for the two Watts Branch segments; organics, bacteria, metals, BOD, TSS, and oil & grease TMDLs for Kingman Lake; bacteria and metals TMDLs for Fort Dupont Creek; bacteria, metals, and BOD TMDLs for Fort Davis Tributary; organics, bacteria, and metals TMDLs for Fort Stanton Tributary; organics, bacteria, BOD, and metals TMDLs for Nash Run; organics, bacteria, and metals TMDLs for Popes Branch; organics, bacteria, and metals TMDLs for Texas Avenue Tributary; and organics, and bacteria, TMDLs for Hickey Run. Maryland’s Completion dates are: Bacteria- 9/19/06; sediment-7/24/07; PCB-10/31/07; Nutrients/BOD-6/5/08; Toxics-12/31/08. The Anacostia Trash TMDL is expected to complete its monitoring and data collection requirements in summer 2009.
MS4 Storm Water Permit for the District of Columbia
On August 19, 2004, EPA Region 3 reissued to DC a second round Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit which replaced the one previously issued in April of 2000 under the NPDES program of the Clean Water Act for the control and management of storm water within the District of Columbia. The MS4 Permit imposes narrative effluent limits to manage storm water quality and quantity through the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and incorporates various Low Impact Development (LID) techniques. The Permit also requires development of plans to implement approved TMDL allocations to further control and manage storm water within the Anacostia River and Rock Creek subwatersheds.
In March 2006, the Region issued an Amendment to the District's current Municipal Separate Storm Water Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The Amendment was the result of an appeal filed by Earthjustice to the current MS4 Permit which had been issued in August 2004. Once the Amendment was issued, it was subsequently appealed by both Earthjustice and the Permittee (the Government of the District of Columbia). The issues involved with the appeals deal with how Total Maximum Daily Load allocations are calculated and compliance demonstrated through MS4 permits and whether Maximum Extent Practicable or Water Quality Standards based on Best Management Practicess are appropriate effluent compliance limits for MS4 permits.
In modifications to the MS4 permit, the District agreed to undertake innovative measures to stem storm water flow and pollution, using natural systems such as trees, green roofs, and vegetated buffers. The enhancements to the storm water controls and management practices were outlined by the District government in a letter to EPA Region 3 dated November, 2007, and further clarified in by the District in a letter sent to the Region in August, 2008. These improvements will be incorporated into the MS4 Permit for the District, which is up for renewal in 2009.
Substantial New Nutrient Controls Will Result from Modified Blue Plains Permit
On April 5, 2007, EPA issued a modification to the NPDES permit which was issued in 2003. Among other things, the 2007 modification established a total nitrogen limit of 4.689 million pounds per year for the District or the Blue Plains facility. This limit is consistent with the Chesapeake Bay allocation and applicable District of Columbia water quality standards. The 2007 permit modification was appealed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (compliance schedule for construction in the permit), WASA (total nitrogen limit and interpretation of the District's narrative water quality standard language) and Friends of the Earth (schedule for compliance). Those appeals were addressed in a split opinion (yes - to schedules in permits, no - to the challenge to the total nitrogen limit and an opinion that at permit issuance language must be public noticed) issued by the Environmental Appeals Board in March of 2008. While WASA has recently appealed the decision relating to the total nitrogen limit, EPA is in the process of reviewing an NPDES permit application submitted by WASA for the renewal of its Blue Plains permit. The reissued permit will address the challenged and new issues. New issues to be addressed in the permit relate to the planning and construction of a new nitrogen processing facility at Blue Plains. This new facility is necessary to meet the total nitrogen limit. Due to the tidal nature of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, these controls will be a benefit to both river systems once they are put in place.
WSSC Case and Settlement
A Consent Decree was lodged in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on July 26, 2005, resolving civil complaints filed by the United States, the State of Maryland and several citizen groups against the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission(WSSC) for the discharge of untreated sewage from its collection system in violation of the CWA. Combined with recent settlements of federal cases against the City of Baltimore and WSSC, the settlements (over $1 million cash penalty to be split equally between the United States and the State of Maryland) are designed to prevent chronic sewage overflows to regional waterways including the Chesapeake Bay, and the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. These settlements promise to protect these waters from contamination by untreated sewage, which contains bacteria, pathogens and other harmful pollutants that seriously degrade water quality, harm aquatic life and threaten public health. WSSC will perform two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) totaling $4.4 million dollars. One SEP has been implemented: a winter denitrification trough methanol addition has been incorporated into the Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant resulting in significant reduction in nitrogen levels. A second SEP will be the purchase/lease of buffer properties and easements near the Putuxent Reservoir; WSSC is looking at purchasing/leasing a total of 9 properties covering approximately 91 acres.
Inspections and Closures of Ground Water Polluting Wells (UIC Program)
Within the Anacostia watershed, there are 108 injection wells located to date; 2 storm water drainage, 100 groundwater remediation, 1 sanitary septic and 5 industrial wells. All of the industrial wells are associated with service stations and automotive repair locations and have been closed by EPA due to their potential endangerment to underground sources of drinking water. The remainder of the wells are considered to be non-endangering, with the majority associated with beneficial ground water cleanups connected with service stations and underground storage tank leaks.
Hickey Run Removed from Impaired Waters List for Oil and Grease
In 1998, a TMDL was established by DC and EPA for Hickey Run, a tributary of the Anacostia, for oil and grease, calling for a reduction in point source loads by 89% and non-point source loads by 30%. Using Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program funding, targeted enforcement actions, and Clean Water Act permit requirements, oil and grease loadings have decreased by 88%, and Hickey Run is now achieving the 10mg/L water quality standard. As a result, Hickey Run was removed from the 2004 Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for oil and grease and is restoration success story for an Anacostia tributary stream.
Anacostia Toxics White Paper
The Anacostia Watershed Toxics Alliance (AWTA) is a workgroup of the AWRP which is addressing toxic sediment contamination in the tidal Anacostia River. EPA supported the completion of AWTA’s draft Toxics White Paper through a $20,000 increase to an EPA/ NOAA Inter-Agency Agreement amendment in July, 2008. The Toxics White Paper is slated for completion in 2009.
Clean Water State Construction Grants and SRF Appropriations Fund CSO Controls
WASA has historically used its Clean Water Act Construction Grants and State Revolving Fund Appropriations, primarily to upgrade the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. A Construction Grant was made in 1989 which funded a study of the City's CSO problem and increased in 1997 to $9,364,610 and from that study the Long Term CSO Control Plan emerged. EPA grant awards were also made to construct and improve CSO facilities, most notably the swirl concentrator facility near RFK Stadium. WASA received a $2,311,650 grant in 2002 to modify or eliminate seven dry weather overflow structures throughout the city, one of which is located along the Anacostia River (Outfall 007). The completion of this project occurred in summer 2005. In July 2003, a $1,746,000 grant was awarded to separate sewers in a 13.5 acre area adjacent to the east side of the Anacostia River, and thereby reduce the combined sewer overflows. This project initiated construction in April, 2007 and should be completed by April, 2010.
Low Impact Development (LID) Project Funding
Since 2001, EPA has administered federal funding exceeding $6 million for the development and implementation of LID projects in the Anacostia Watershed. Of those funds, $1 million per year has been awarded to Prince George's County, Maryland to support low impact development projects that help protect the Anacostia watershed from storm water runoff. Each project has taken about one year to complete and includes matching funds from the county. These projects demonstrate innovative storm water management techniques using biological filters and vegetation to reduce storm water flows and water quality impacts.
Major Wetlands Restoration Underway Near Bladensburg MD
(Anacostia East Mitigation Site (Anacostia 11), Prince George's County, Maryland)
The Anacostia East wetland restoration project serves as part of the mitigation for construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Funding was provided by Maryland State Highway and Federal Highway Administration for $6 million dollars and $2 million dollars were funded directly from Prince George’s County's budget. The project was awarded to a contractor in February, 2007 and groundbreaking for the construction occurred on April 17, 2007. The Anacostia project has rehabilitated and constructed approximately 23 acres of tidal wetlands in a highly degraded portion of the Anacostia River downstream from the Bladensburg Waterfront Park. The 54-acre project area will eventually house an educational interpretation center and trails. Earthwork for the project was completed in 2007, with planting of native wetland species taking place in the spring and summer of 2008. Monitoring will take place for five years to assure compliance with success criteria. Work has been cooperatively performed and funded by Maryland State Highway, Federal Highway Administration, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George's County, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Anacostia River Stakeholder Survey and Involvement Effort - Urban River Restoration Initiative with Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR)
The Anacostia River was selected as one of eight Urban River Pilot Projects by EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through an MOU signed in July 2002. The agreement is designed to facilitate continued collaboration and cooperation between the Agencies with respect to environmental remediation and restoration of degraded urban rivers; neutral facilitation to assist in building stakeholder consensus around developing a comprehensive watershed plan and an overall governance structure. EPA used Urban Rivers project funding ($50,000) to enter into contract with RESOLVE, Inc. and Justice and Sustainability Associates (JSA), who successfully interviewed approximately 25 stakeholders; synthesized a stakeholder message articulating that a single Anacostia entity must administer a comprehensive watershed management plan; provided Anacostia governance alternatives; and gained consensus on what the governance should be and how it should be employed. As a result, a new governance structure for the watershed was implemented in 2006 as noted below.
Start-up of the New Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership
For the last two years, EPA has assisted with the early start-up costs of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (AWRP), including hiring of an Executive Director, who manages primary responsibility for day-to-day AWRP operations. Funding has been dedicated to the important task of advancing an Anacostia Restoration Plan (ARP). The ARP should be completed in 2009.
Anacostia Urban Watershed Partnership Grant
EPA Region 3, with the assistance of EPA Headquarters, the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the Federal Highways Administration (FWHA) recently awarded a model grant, which adheres to a basic tenets of comprehensive watershed restoration strategies and stakeholder partnerships. EPA and FWHA sought to set the example for collaboration by collaborating on this funding initiative. The jointly sponsored Anacostia River Urban Watershed Partnership Grant is a mechanism to deal with both the drivers and results of watershed degradation. The grant takes a proactive approach toward encouraging watershed restoration activities and partnerships. It aims at alleviating the causes and effects of environmental insults by steering potential grantees to forge alliances between development and environmental organizations. Integrating these two critical areas assists in removing traditional barriers between environment and development, induces infrastructure organizations to embrace environmental stewardship, leverages stakeholders' strengths and interests, and projects a message of a unified, holistic, and sustainable restoration approach.
The joint funding initiative was announced during Earth Week 2006. Finalists announced in September 2006 by both agencies, included the following three groups of partners:
Anacostia Watershed Society
DC Department of Transportation
Prince George’s County, MD
* Previously funded projects
(Grant amt )
Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership
Beginning in March 2005, members of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee (AWRC) and other stakeholders participated in an EPA-funded facilitation effort spawned from the Urban Rivers Restoration Initiative (URRI), a joint effort between EPA and the COE. The facilitation experience encouraged stakeholders to rethink their collective restoration methodologies, and to bring their efforts into focus by assisting in the development of a watershed plan and by governing the restoration effort more efficiently. The process ended with unanimous endorsement of the "Anacostia Watershed Restoration Governance" report in December 2005, a document which spurred the AWRC to reconstitute its organizational structure into the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (AWRP).
In order to fulfill the long-held vision of a restored Anacostia, the new framework is essential to eliminate chronic problems of: 1) inadequate inter-jurisdictional and intra-jurisdictional coordination and implementation capabilities, 2) insufficient long-term funding support and 3) credibility problems with the watershed's citizenry. The AWRP is supported by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' staff, with responsibility for the adoption of the AWRP as well as oversight for its implementation. AWRP is comprised of four primary components, the Leadership Council, the Steering Committee, the Management Committee, and an Executive Director.
The Leadership Council was conceived to fulfill several important needs: to improve accountability; to enhance the prospects for securing needed resources; and to help ensure that those resources are optimally spent. It provides overall authority and broad policy direction, including adoption of the AWRP. The core membership is made up of the four signatories to the 2001 agreement (the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Governor of the State of Maryland and the County Executives of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland) plus two federal partners, the Regional Administrator of EPA Region 3 and the District Engineer of the Baltimore District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Ongoing support to the Leadership Council and active oversight of the watershed restoration will be provided by the Steering Committee.
The Steering Committee has a critical responsibility for recommending restoration policies, programs and resource levels. It is designed to ensure two-way communication between the Leadership Council and the agencies with planning and implementation responsibility. Its membership is broader than that of the Leadership Council to provide a forum for coordination between agencies and other key stakeholders. The Steering Committee is also intended to provide an effective platform for municipalities with a stake in the watershed's restoration, agencies not on the Leadership Committee and other stakeholder organizations.
The Management Committee is generally equivalent to the former Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee (AWRC). It is intended that the Management committee implement those policies passed down from the Steering Committee.
Anacostia Executive Charrette, November 2006
EPA Region 3 co-sponsored a one-day dialogue on restoration and protection of the Mid-Atlantic Region's Anacostia River Watershed which occurred on November 28, 2006. CEQ Chairman James Connaughton and former EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles attended the event, which was intended to engage and broaden the constituency involved in restoring the Anacostia. About 80 key executives representing a range of interests, including economic institutions, developers, federal, state, and local government agencies, environmental groups, the transportation sector, and others, participated in the meeting. The charrette's primary focus was to expand partnership efforts in order to facilitate inclusion of the transportation and development communities to encourage sustainable watershed management planning and implementation.
The charrette was a tremendous success. The group of 80-plus executives brought their committed minds and hearts to the session to report progress, share professional expertise, share resources, and force solutions. Keynote speakers addressed the issues and implications of making the Anacostia a model for revitalization; facilitated discussions yielded progressive ideas and goals.
Highlights & Findings
Prior to the meeting, participants ranked those topics they felt were most important to restoring the watershed. They were, in order:
- Innovative Storm Water Management
- Sustainable Development and Design Practices
- Habitat Enhancement
- Outreach, Education and Marketing
In several instances during the meeting, these and similar sentiments were further emphasized by the participants. Summarized, they included:
- Creating a sustainable overall strategy or Comprehensive Plan for the watershed.
- Encouraging collaboration between public and private entities for greater efficiency.
- Institutionally standardizing methods to level the field for the private sector.
- Creating incentives for private sector by removing barriers to innovative practices and granting environmental 'credits.'
- Building private and public support for restoration activities through outreach and marketing.
Anacostia Watershed Toxics Alliance (AWTA)
The Toxics Alliance, formed in 1999 by EPA Region 3, is a collaborative network of nearly 30 organizations -- a voluntary public/private partnership working to address chemical contamination of the tidal river sediments, focusing on addressing toxic sediment contamination. Toxic contaminants of concern include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). To date, the Alliance, in conjunction with the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee, has developed a Toxics Management Strategy, which guides the work of the group and other partners. The group is now focusing on implementing controls to limit toxics sources and to remediate sediment sinks. Successes include developing and implementing a sediment capping demonstration, and sampling and analysis to assess and identify toxic hotspots along the River. AWTA is also developing a Toxics White Paper as noted earlier in this document.
CSO Special Expert Panel
EPA convened a "Special Panel on Combined Sewer Overflows and Storm Water Management in the District of Columbia" in 1998. The panel was comprised of representatives from over 25 local, regional, and Federal agencies which had an interest in water quality issues in the District. The Panel issued a report in September 1998 that included a wide range of recommendations. Many of the Panel's recommendations were applied by WASA in the "Combined Sewer System Nine Minimum Controls Summary Report" (July 1999) and the "Combined Sewer System Long-Term Control Plan" (July 2002). Through leadership on the Panel, EPA clearly had a positive impact on the nature and intensity of CSO correction in the Anacostia.
Intercounty Connector (ICC) Mitigation and Environmental Stewardship Package
This project acts as mitigation for the Intercounty Connector (ICC) highway in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland. An interagency group, including EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Army Corps of Engineers, has worked with Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and Federal Highway Administration to prepare a mitigation and environmental stewardship package to compensate for unavoidable construction impacts from the proposed ICC. The mitigation includes Low Impact Development methods designed to treat run-off from approximately 3,300 acres in the watershed. The cost: $13.2 million for mitigation and $10.3 million for Environmental Stewardship. The interagency group has worked to put in place measures to try to minimize impact on aquatic resources in the project area, including over a mile of bridging in sensitive areas, redundant storm water controls during construction and operation of the highway. The 18-mile long ICC is expected to cost between $2 and $3 billion; approximately two-thirds of the road will be in the Anacostia watershed.
|Jon M. Capacasa
|Director, Water Protection Division||215-814-2300|
|Associate Director, Office of State and Watershed Partnerships||215-814-5810|
|Anacostia Watershed Program Manager||215-814-2657|