Wednesday 22 May 2019

Potomac Riverkeeper

Dean Naujoks joined Potomac RIVERKEEPER® Network in 2015 as the Potomac RIVERKEEPER®. Dean Naujoks has over 20 years of environmental non-profit experience. He began his non-profit career in 1991 with the NC Wildlife Federation. After graduating from NC State University, with a self-created degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development, he was hired as the first Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, serving from 2001 to 2008. He became the first Riverkeeper on the Yadkin River with Yadkin Riverkeeper, Inc. in 2008, also serving as Executive Director until 2014.

Dean has been awarded River Network’s 2009 National River Heroes Award. River Network's River Heroes Award celebrates rivers and those who protect them by recognizing victories and honoring those who provide leadership and inspiration along the way. Yadkin Riverkeeper also won the 2011 North Carolina Wildlife Federation Governor’s Achievement Award Water Conservation Organization of the Year. Dean has served on Waterkeeper Alliance’s Board of Directors.

(Potomac Riverkeeper Network started as Potomac RIVERKEEPER®, Inc. began in 2000 and hired Ed Merrifield as the first Potomac Riverkeeper in 2003. Ed retired at the end of 2012, and Vice President Robin Broder became Acting Riverkeeper. Former Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble became President in 2014. The Potomac Riverkeeper is one of three Riverkeepers which includes the Shenandoah and Upper Potomac.)

We work to protect the public's right to clean water in our rivers and streams. We stop pollution to promote safe drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.

Monitoring Program

We are dedicated to monitoring the condition of the rivers through regular on-the-water patrols, volunteer Riverwatchers, and citizen reports through our website and the new mobile phone app, the Water Reporter. In addition, we work with university law clinics, nonprofit legal groups and corporate law firms that provide pro bono legal services and conduct compliance reviews of pollution permits. Staff and legal interns also provide legal research on pollution permit compliance.

The evidence of pollution that we observe during monitoring includes polluted runoff from construction sites and farm land, fish kills and fish with lesions, algae blooms, illicit discharges from pipes and many other signs of compromised water quality. Some of problems are old and ongoing, but others are new. We notify government oversight agencies, contact the polluter, and if needed, take legal action if other actions do not result in improvements.

  • Riverwatchers -- Our volunteer Riverwatchers Program monitor and report pollution on the Potomac River, the Shenandoah River, the Upper Potomac, and all the tributaries. We train volunteers what to look out for while out on the river, which pollution issues are prevalent for our watershed and how you can report pollution. Our Riverwatchers are often the first to detect problems such as early spring fish kills.
  • The Water Reporter, a mobile reporting app -- We have made it easier to find and report pollution -- and to report the fun things you see and do on the river. Working with Chesapeake Commons, we developed a mobile app, which is a Bay-wide initiative, to gather critical data on the waterways you love! The Water Reporter App for iPhone and iPad is now available for download for free! If you’re out and about and see debris flowing from a construction site, cows in your stream, or a pipe discharging questionable water, use the app to report it. Or if you are on a hike, bike or paddling trip let us know. If your organization or group is planning a stream cleanup, tree planting, or any water related activity, please report those on the app as well! We will try to advertise far and wide. Once your report is submitted it will be sent to your local Waterkeeper and to a live map available on the Water Reporter Website. The Water Reporter app is not only for the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. There are 18 local Waterkeepers in the Chesapeake Bay region waiting for your reports. Reports will go to your local Waterkeeper.

Enforcement & Advocacy Program

We take information from our monitoring and community activity and take actions to create positive change. At any given time, we are working on roughly two dozen active enforcement and advocacy matters, including commenting on pollution permits when they are up for renewal, pushing government regulators to recognize major pollution problems and act on them, and filing lawsuits against polluters and government agencies that are allowing pollution to continue unchecked.

Our priority issue areas are:

Major Polluters

The Clean Water Act and other environmental laws allow residents to improve their local rivers and streams through "citizen suits." On behalf of our members and the residents throughout the watershed, Potomac Riverkeeper and its attorneys routinely monitor known polluters. When we find that a facility is violating its pollution permit, we consider factors, such as the impact of the violations on public health, and the size and scope of the violations, before taking action.

After our review, in most cases, we contact the worst polluters to tell them to stop polluting our water supply and to clean up existing pollution. If they do not, we begin legal actions by filing a mandatory 60-day "letter of intent" to sue under the Clean Water Act. As a last resort, we will take a polluter to court to stop the pollution.

Current Potomac Riverkeeper actions include:

  • Dominion's Coal Ash ponds at Possum Point - appealing permits gthat allow he discharge of millions of gallons of toxic coal ash wastewater into Quantico Creek
  • WSSC Potomac Water Filtration Plant – lawsuit filed for nutrient and aluminum pollution violations on an expired permit
  • NRG Coal Power Plants at Dickerson & Morgantown – on going negotiations about nutrient pollution violations on expired permit
  • NRG Coal Ash Disposal Facilities lawsuit filed to stop toxic pollution leaking from coal ash disposal facilities resulted in consent decree for clean up and closure of facilities


We track, comment on and challenge Clean Water Act permits for stormwater from construction sites, industrial sites, and municipal stormwater systems. Stormwater runs off the land and picks up sediment, fertilizer, trash, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them into our creeks and rivers directly or through storm sewer systems.

Current actions include:

  • General stormwater permits – We are mounting court challenges to multiple stormwater general permits – blanket permits issued by states that apply to a large number of similar sources of discharge. These include:
    • Virginia’s Construction Stormwater General Permit
    • Maryland’s Industrial Stormwater General Permit
    • Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permits

Fracking & Mining

George Washington National Forest  In 2011, the US Forest Service rewrote the George Washington National Forest management plan and rightfully excluded industrial horizontal fracking and gas development from the public areas of the forest. It drew tremendous local support. Ten local governments submitted comments expressing concerns over fracking in the forest and many passed resolutions against horizontal drilling in the National Forest. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Na­tional Park Service, and three major metropolitan water suppliers filed comments supporting the Forest Service’s proposed prohibition. More than 53,000 comments were submitted during the comment period on the Forest Service’s draft plan, with more than 95 percent supporting the pro­posed restrictions. Now, the US Forest Service is under intense pressure from the oil and gas industry to abandon its proposal. We circulated an action alert and are working with other groups to bring attention to this issue while awaiting the Forest Service’s final management plan.

Cove Point Fracked Gas Export Facility  Potomac Riverkeeper and Shenandoah Riverkeeper joined a coalition of environmental groups to oppose this facility. The coalition has intervened in the proceedings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calling on the agency to conduct a thorough environmental review and economic and risk assessment (an Environmental Impact Statement). Demands for natural gas exports will mean more dangerous fracking in our local communities, as well as more pipelines and compressor stations, more water and air pollution, and destruction of land. A broader coalition of local, regional and national groups has been formed, the Cove Point Emergency Coalition, to oppose this facility. There have been several actions taken in the months leading up to FERC’s release of the final Environmental Assessment, anticipated to be in September 2014.

Water Body Standards 

Emerging Contaminants: For several years, we have worked with research partners at the USGS and other agencies on further understanding the health effects of endocrine disruptors in our rivers, vigilantly monitoring the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers for further fish kills, and are building community awareness. There are 80,000 chemicals in the US marketplace. Our government only tests our water for 1 out of every 400. Many of these chemicals that are not regulated or tested for are endocrine distruptors, a type of chemical pollution believed to be the cause of fish kills and intersex fish in the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers. Our Federal, state, and local governments are mandated to provide basic services like safe, clean drinking water. In order to guarantee that our water is safe, we must stop these pollutants from entering our waterways in the first place, and we must study, test for, and--if necessary--remove endocrine disruptors in our water supply.


DC Water & the DC Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Consent Decree -- Every year, over 600 million gallons of water mixed with raw sewage pour into the Potomac from DC’s 100-year old combined-sewage overflow (CSO) system.  DC Water, under orders from a nine-year old consent decree in federal court, is working on fixing this problem. With a coalition of local environmental groups, Potomac Riverkeeper is pushing hard to force DC Water to keep its commitment to build tunnels that will relieve the strain on the CSO system, and finally end almost all of the sewage overflows. In April 2014, Potomac Riverkeeper, Earthjustice and a number of other local environmental groups filed comments objecting to DC Water’s request to modify the Long Term Control Plan under which the sewer authority is finally supposed to stop our city’s raw sewage from pouring into the Potomac during rainstorms. While we support the concept of green infrastructure, we don’t think that DC Water’s proposed bargain—a $90 million capped spend on green infrastructure, in exchange for loosening the requirements of the Control Plan—is a bargain this city can or should accept. The groups do not think the Control Plan should be reconsidered unless and until DC Water comes up with a better plan.

Recreation Program

Our Riverkeeper programs undertake a number of activities and projects that enhance the use and enjoyment of our rivers, with the ultimate goal of increasing public awareness of and participation in protection of the rivers. The Riverkeeper programs also work on some policy and legislative issues related to our work protecting the rivers.

 Lower Potomac Paddling Trail In 2011 and 2012, Potomac Riverkeeper staff and a volunteer embarked on week long paddling journeys down the Lower Potomac. Their 2011 journey caught the interest of John Sopko (former attorney at Akin Gump) and Phil Barnett (Cong. Waxman’s Chief of Staff and avid paddler). Through discussions with John and Phil, we hatched the idea of a Lower Potomac Paddling Trail. Over the next 2 years, we met with Phil, Akin Gump attorneys, other Hill staff, state agency staff, and state and national park staff. In addition, we sought authorization for permitted camping at a number of existing facilities on the Tidal Potomac River that would cater specifically to kayakers and other recreational paddlers. We have secured commitments from a number of sites, both public and private.

Potomac River Cleanups & Paddles

A few times a year, we sponsor river cleanups, often in partnership with other groups or businesses. We also sponsor a few recreational paddles every year.




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