A scourge of the EPA takes over at the EPA
TO STAND on a pontoon besides the Anacostia River, which runs for 8.5 miles through Maryland and the southern part of Washington, DC, is to gauge the progress America has made in cleaning up its waterways. The Anacostia, which empties into the Potomac close to the Capitol, was once a slow-flowing garbage dump; on a recent sunny afternoon, hardly a soda can or plastic bag ruffled its sluggish brown surface, over which cormorants fizzed like arrows, rigid with intent. They are a sign that the river’s ravaged fish stocks are beginning to recover. But you still wouldn’t want to eat them.
The most hopeful development on the Anacostia, for example, takes the form of a $2bn sewage overflow system, which is due to come into use in 2018. It has been built by DC Water, which manages much of Washington’s sewage system, after it was sued over its discharges into the river by environmental groups. They had tired of the EPA’s failure to take action. Though 168 drains will still flow into the river, bringing dog faeces and gasoline from the capital’s roads, this should make the Anacostia swimmable for the first time in decades. “We’re getting close to dramatic progress,’ says Emily Franc, who serves as the Anacostia’s riverkeeper, a non-governmental watchdog role. “This is no time for the EPA to pull back.”
Published on February 25, 2017 in The Economist