Less than a week after the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Project announced a $1.7 billion effort to restore and clean up the trash-strewn, polluted river, the Anacostia Watershed Society began the effort with a bang.
In one of many events throughout the National Capital region to mark the 40th Earth Day, the AWS held a large river cleanup at nearly 30 sites throughout the Anacostia watershed, which reaches from the District to Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Cleanup sites stretched from as far north as Aspen Hill and Colesville to the banks of the Anacostia directly across the river from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Cleanup organizers told WTOP Radio that Anacostia Park can still be one of the most vibrant and environmentally sound areas of Washington D.C., but trash and pollutants still line the banks of the river.
Watershed Society officials said nearly 60 tons of garbage were removed from the river in the latter half of 2009. They said that the D.C. bag tax has also already helped in cutting down the number of plastic shopping bags they’re finding in the park and along the water.
The Earth Day celebration and cleanup effort was the first major project taken by environmentalists since the AWRP released the multi-part plan to restore the heavily polluted river.
The plan calls for over 700 different projects including:
- retrofitting stormwater runoff facilities
- restoring streams
- creating and restoring natural wetlands
- fish blockage removal
- riparian renewal
- trash reduction
- parkland acquisition
AWRP worked with the governments of the District, Maryland, Virginia, the EPA and Prince George’s and Montgomery to produce the report and action plan.
It’s Earth Day again. What’s changed?
Author and environmental reporter Tom Horton, speaking about the destruction of the once magnificent Chesapeake Bay estuary, has chided that we tend to write about the wreckage and not about what is driving the train.
He is quite right. Reporters are charged with covering the facts in front of them, and have not always felt emboldened to go behind the visible destruction to harder-to-quantify issues, and qualify reasons for the crash.
The public also has tended to focus on the debris and aftermath of agricultural, storm-water, construction and development policies rather than look into what they can do to alter those policies and change their own polluting habits.
But that is beginning to change. After the environmental outrages of a couple of decades ago (Love Canal, New York; Times Beach, Missouri; Pocomoke River, Maryland) the anger eased, but environmental groups ramped up their work.
Today, there is considerable money being poured into environmental research, a lot of sweat is being spent by advocates ensuring that existing legislation is being adhered to, and a lot of grass-roots organizations are working to bring about change on a local level.
The question that is finally being addressed is how much of the pollution we are all personally responsible for: we are all driving that train.
So here are some of the changes:
The Department of Defense is moving to use less petroleum: The U.S. Air Force today launched the Green Hornet by flying over the Chesapeake Bay. The sophisticated F/A-18 twin-engine fighter jet will have its tanks 50 percent filled with oil refined from the crushed seeds of the flowering Camelina sativa plant.
The Executive Branch is supporting pro-environment innovation: Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said progress in the past 40 years since the first Earth Day is about more than just law, reported the Associated Press. It’s also about innovation that made cleaner cars. And that innovation, Sutley said, “is going to be the answer for tackling climate change.”
National lawmakers also are becoming more active: Last year, Democrat Henry Waxman of California helped pass a climate change bill in the House of Representatives, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, although its fate is unclear. On the Senate side, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine have proposed a climate change bill as well, called the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal, or CLEAR.
State governors are becoming more pro-active: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told WTOP radio that the polluted Anacostia River that runs through the nation’s capital, will go on a “trash diet,” becoming the first river on the East Coast and only the second in the nation where the total amount of trash will be limited every day.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is flexing some muscle: yesterday it announced plans to require “green roofs,” rain barrels and other measures that trap runoff at new and redeveloped buildings in D.C., making the city a test case for an ambitious effort to stop pollution from flowing into rivers along with the rain. The EPA’s plan, as reported in The Washington Post, contained in a proposed permit for the District’s storm-sewer system, would require developers to trap 90 percent of the water that falls on a plot during a storm.
And finally, the media is taking reporting on the environment more seriously: The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Wired, Reuters, Slate, Grist, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PBS’ “Need to Know” series have all banded together to launch “Climate Desk,” a project that aims to aggregate information on climate control from across different platforms.
Maryland Public Television is focusing on the Chesapeake this week, just in time for the environmental protection festivities of Earth Day. MPT is running shows about the lives, perils and history of the Chesapeake Bay, including older documentaries and new programs like Chesapeake Bay by Air –an aerial perspective of wildlife on the bay.
As a capstone to the week, MPT will be hosting a Volunteer-a-thon co-sponsored by Bank of America on April 25, where viewers can pledge volunteer hours to helping restore the Chesapeake. Last year, more than 13,717 hours were pledged during the Volunteer-a-thon, with viewers pledging to clean the bay from more than 70 organizations.