CWA Timeline

Pre-colonial

virginia colonial
  • The Patawomeck and Piscataway tribes lived in these ancestral waters where they hunted, fished, and used water for drinking and bathing.
  • Health of the river is excellent
Image credit: Library of Congress

1785

Washington
  • Potowmack Company organized by George Washington to spread commerce by river

Image credit: Library of Congress

1790

proclamation of federal district
  • Residence Act directs President George Washington to identify the Potomac River location that will serve as the nation’s capital

Image credit: Library of Congress

1793

Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah, Virginia
  • George Washington describes Potomac River as “well-stocked with various kinds of fish at all seasons of the year, and in the Spring with Shad, Herrings, Bass, Carp, Perch, Sturgeon, etc. in great abundance”

https://www.mountvernon.org/the-estate-gardens/historic-trades/fisheries/fishing-operations/

Image credit: Library of Congress

1814

taking city of washington
  • British defeat US troops at Bladensburg and invade DC, including burning Long Bridge on the Potomac

Image credit: Library of Congress

Early 1800’s – Civil War

east branch of potomac r washington
  • Potomac River used to support tobacco industry with markets of enslaved people and routes of transport for goods.
  • Deforestation and poor farming practices cause siltation of the river.

Image credit: Library of Congress

1825

tiber creek: the bathers by Peter Waddell
  • John Quincy Adams nearly drowns swimming in Tiber Creek (tributary to the Potomac) in a sudden storm.

Image credit: Library of Congress

1828

Potomac-River-Great-Falls-print
  • C & O Canal construction begins to provide a transport route around Great Falls

Image credit: Library of Congress

1850

Point of Rocks, Maryland
  • C & O Canal reaches Shepherdstown, which is as far is it is ever built

Image credit: Library of Congress

Civil War

ferrying soldiers
  • Wharf used to transport soldiers and materiel

Image credit: Library of Congress

1880’s

1880s building of early sewer credit dcwater.com
  • Herring and sturgeon industry booming
  • Sewers begin to be built in DC to channel sewage and stormwater into the river

Image credit https://www.dcwater.com/wastewater-collection-history

1938

1938 BluePlains sewage plant 1970s Credit dcwater.com
  • Blue Plains sewage treatment plant built to provide basic sewage treatment
  • National Park Service acquires C & O Canal

Image Credit https://www.dcwater.com/history-blue-plains

1954

Douglas dons robes of Supreme Court Justice.
  • Justice William O. Douglas leads a walking trip from Cumberland to DC to save the C & O Canal from being paved

Image credit: Library of Congress

1961

c and o canal
  • C & O proclaimed a national monument by President Eisenhower

Image source: https://www.loc.gov/item/2011633587/ Photographer: Photographer: Carol Highsmith

1965

Lyndon-B.-Johnson
  • President Johnson declares that the Potomac River is a national disgrace, “a river of decaying sewage and rotten algae.” He added, “The river rich in history and memory which flows by our nation’s capital should serve as a model of scenic and recreation values for the entire country.”

Quote source: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/presidents-and-the-potomac

Image source: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/photos/lyndon-b-johnson

1960’s

EXPANSION OF THE BLUE PLAINS SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT
  • Blue Plains sewage treatment plant upgraded to provide advanced treatment
  • 1968 President Johnson again, “We can achieve a new concept in conservation—greater than a park, more than the preservation of a river—by beginning this year to make the Potomac a living part of our national life.”

Image source: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/547220

1970

girl picking trash out of potomac
  • First Earth Day

Image credit: Library of Congress

1972

1972 Federal Clean Water Act Credit_ govinfo.gov

1970s and 80s

  • River begins to heal: some fish populations begin to rebound, algal outbreaks decline, water grasses return

1987

1987 Storm Water Pollution
  • Passage of the CWA Reauthorization, starting federal program addressing stormwater pollution

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2000

2000-Logo-PRKN
  • Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. formed by clean water advocates to be a strong, local voice for the Potomac River

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2004

2004-Morgantown-plume
  • Potomac Riverkeeper files its first Clean Water Act lawsuits to stop sewage pollution

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2005

2005 Fish Kill
  • Potomac Riverkeeper responds to massive fish kill

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2006

2006 Intersex credit USGS.Gov
  • Potomac Riverkeeper called to investigate intersex fish

Image credit: USGS.gov

2007

2007 Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources cleans Seneca Creek
  • Potomac Riverkeeper wins clean up of lead contamination from shooting range in Seneca Creek

Image credit: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

2014

  • Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Clean Water Act enforcement against Deer Lodge trailer park for septic system leaks into Conococheague Creek – leads to Deer Lodge building new sewage treatment system to protect the Creek, a popular waterway for swimming and paddling.

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2015

2014 Dean at Possum Point
  • Potomac Riverkeeper launches campaign to end toxic coal ash pollution from Possum Point coal plant on the Potomac in Virginia
  • Potomac Riverkeeper suit against WSSC for illegal discharges of metals from Potomac drinking water treatment plant leads to Clean Water Act consent decree ordering WSSC to cease pollution and modernize the plant to meet current standards to protect the river.

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2016

2016 swimming hazard
  • Potomac Riverkeeper strengthens public health standards for swimming
  • Potomac and Patuxent Riverkeepers’ enforcement action against NRG Energy for nutrient pollution from its three coal-fired power plants leads to a federal court agreement requiring plant upgrades and $1 million environmental fund to benefit the two rivers.

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2017

2017 Aerial photo of Massanutten Sewage Treatment Plant
    • Shenandoah Riverkeeper helps tightened limits on Massanutten Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges
    • UPRK begins use of aerial drone to investigate and take enforcement action against violators of the Clean Water Act

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2018

2018 Combined Sewage Overflow Alexandria
  • Potomac Riverkeeper wins legislation to require Alexandria to stop sewage dumping
  • First tunnel to capture sewer overflows goes online to reduce routine sewage dumping into the Anacostia River that flows into the Potomac
  • Potomac Riverkeeper lawsuit against City of Frederick, MD for polluting the Monocacy River with excess nutrients from its sewage treatment plant leads to informal settlement and plant upgrade to protect water quality in this Potomac tributary.
  • First annual RioPalooza – first environmental outreach to underserved communities in the Shenandoah Valley

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2019

2019-Dean-mentoring-a-water-quality-monitoring-volunteer
  • Potomac Riverkeeper launches community science water quality monitoring program and pilot program to restore freshwater mussel population
  • Potomac Riverkeeper wins recycle and remove legislative battle to stop toxic coal ash pollution
  • Upper Potomac Riverkeeper reaches informal agreement with SGI, a Pennsylvania roof shingle manufacturer, to resolve untreated discharges of quarry stormwater into a nearby trout stream. SGI agreed to install state of the art treatment to protect the stream.

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2020

2020 River bank before cattle exclusion
  • PRKN succeeds in passing legislation in Virginia to require herds of cattle to be fenced out of the river by the end of 2025 if water quality standards are not met

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2020

2020-paddle-on-the-Cacapon
  • PRK investigation and report leads to $1.4 million EPA fine against Dominion for illegal dumping of 27.5 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into Quantico Creek
  • Keep Cacapon Clean initiative inspired by Friends of the Cacapon, UPRK Brent Walls, and the Cacapon Institute

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2021

Verso Luke Mill close up gravel
  • UPRK investigation leads to federal court consent decree ordering Verso to stop and clean up leaks of toxic “black liquor” from the Luke paper mill into the Upper Potomac.

Image credit: PotomacRiverkeeperNetwork.org

2022

2022 CWA50 Logo
  • 50th Anniversary of Clean Water Act

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2022

2022 Sharkfest swimmers in the Potomac
  • DC commits to lifting ban on swimming in the Potomac
  • Virginia begins use of chlorophyll-a standard, long fought for by Shenandoah Riverkeeper, to measure algae blooms’ impact on river recreation

 

Image credit: Specialolympics.org

2025

potomac river wharf
  • Alexandria ends sewage dumping

Image credit: https://www.loc.gov/item/2020724967/ Photographer: Carol Highsmith

2030

aireal view francis scott key bridge
  • DC ends sewage dumping

Image credit: https://www.loc.gov/item/2020724967/ Photographer: Carol Highsmith

2040

2040-mussels-in-the-Potomac.
  • Native freshwater mussel population has been restored and is removing pollution to clean the Potomac River

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org.

2040

2040-Water-Quality-Monitor-Volunteers
  • Potomac Riverkeeper monitors water quality throughout the watershed and provides timely, accurate information to the public so they can safely swim

Image credit: Potomacriverkeepernetwork.org

2050

2050-Young-fisher-in-the-Shenandoah-Photo-Credit-Frank-Flippy
  • Potomac River is teeming with fish, safe for swimming, and provides great drinking water to the millions who live here

Image credit: Frank Filipy

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