EPA Releases Inadequate Pollution Permit for Washington, D.C. Rivers

Weak permit will leave Anacostia and Potomac Rivers polluted for decades


Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5221

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a long-overdue and flawed permit which fails to adequately regulate pollution discharges from storm sewers in the nation’s capital. Pollution from storm sewers has long plagued the waters of Washington, D.C. The following is a statement from Earthjustice staff attorney Jennifer Chavez:

The Anacostia River was once the pride of the District of Columbia. But today, it’s been described as one of the dirtiest rivers in America. Storm sewage and waste runoff have polluted the waterway.
(View a photo slideshow of the Anacostia.)

“Although this permit contains some critical pollution control provisions, including requirements to install clean and affordable green infrastructure that will revitalize the city’s streets, it simply does not go far enough. The Anacostia, Rock Creek, and Potomac rivers have long been burdened by uncontrolled polluted runoff that creates conditions hostile to aquatic wildlife and unsafe for human recreation. These iconic waters can and must be restored as a resource for district residents and visitors.

“The District of Columbia has stringent legal standards on its books that are designed to protect people and vulnerable wildlife from the grease, metals, bacteria, trash, and chemicals that are dumped in these waters after each rainfall. In 2002, the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board ordered the agency to strengthen an earlier version of the permit to ensure compliance with those standards. Yet this newly released permit still fails to ensure compliance with the district’s water quality standards. In addition, it is loaded with muddled and ambiguous language and exceptions that weaken the permit and make it extremely difficult to enforce.

“District residents deserve and demand clean water. We call on the EPA to match the visionary goals that the agency once promised with equally strong enforcement and oversight.”

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