NRDC sues EPA over details of Anacostia River cleanup plan

Dive Brief:

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has sued the Environmental Protection Agency for approving what it calls a "flawed" and ineffective plan to clean the heavily polluted Anacostia River, which flows through Maryland and Washington, D.C.
  • The Clean Water Act requires "total maximum daily loads" of pollutants to be calculated for affected waterways. Maryland and Washington developed a plan in 2010 which called for a certain amount of waste to be removed per year.
  • NRDC contends that the calculations used to determine this amount of waste may not be accurate and says that it would be better to establish a cap or maximum amount of waste allowed in the river instead.

Dive Insight:

The Anacostia River has been considered one of the more polluted major rivers in the country for years due to large amounts of sewage, litter and other debris entering from a variety of sources. While Washington and two Maryland counties are now required to remove an equal amount of waste from the river each year, the NRDC argues that this method will leave too much behind.

Some cities along the river have installed green infrastructure to mitigate storm water runoff and installed trash traps in the river itself that can collect thousands of tons of waste per year. Washington's ban on polystyrene foam and fee for plastic bags are also meant to help reduce litter. Money from the bag fee goes toward cleaning the Anacostia, though some have questioned how effective that program has been.

As seen recently in San Jose, CA legal action can lead to heightened efforts. The city settled a lawsuit with conservation group Baykeeper and agreed to a $100 million cleanup of Coyote Creek and the Guadalupe Riverover the next 10 years. Establishing responsibility or funds for waterway rehabilitation is challenging for all involved and the Clean Water Act is still seen as one of the most effective tools for enforcement.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Regulation
Top image credit: DOEE