Our mission is to protect the public’s right to clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries. We stop pollution to enhance the safety of our drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.
History of Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. was founded in 2000 by a group of local community members who saw the need for stronger enforcement of federal, state, and local clean water protections in local rivers through grassroots advocacy and legal action. Riverkeepers are the eyes and ears of the rivers, the voice of the rivers, and the experts in the rivers, protecting the public’s rights to clean water. Encompassing the skills of scientists, teachers, law officers, fishermen, and paddlers, Riverkeepers combine a profound knowledge of their waterway, matched with a relentless commitment to protecting clean water and the rule of law. Ed Merrifield was hired in 2003 as the first Potomac Riverkeeper and President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network.
In 2006, Jeff Kelble was hired as the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and in 2010 Brent Walls joined the team as Upper Potomac Riverkeeper. Ed Merrifield led the foundation in its early stages to their first successes including filing the first enforcement actions against polluters and testifying before Congress on the intersex fish problem that was plaguing the Potomac River in 2006. Ed retired from being President at the end of 2012, and in 2014 Jeff transitioned to be President and Riverkeeper.
In 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network was formed when the organization hired two new Riverkeepers: Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper as well as Phillip Musegaas, Vice President of Programs and Litigation, to oversee its expanding docket of legal actions. The resulting organization, PRKN, is the sole nonprofit combining assessment, advocacy, legal action, and community engagement to stop pollution in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.
After several more years of growth and success defending clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries, Jeff left Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and in 2018 Nancy Stoner, one of the nation’s most experienced water policy experts, joined the organization as the new president, and, along with the board of directors, has helped PRKN expand and deepen its reach throughout the watershed.
The work of Potomac Riverkeeper Network spans the entire almost 15,000 square mile watershed which flows through four states (Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia into the Chesapeake Bay. The one exception is the Anacostia watershed, which has a separate riverkeeper program. PRKN’s programs, activities, and campaigns benefit all of the almost 6 million residents of the Potomac watershed, 75% of whom live in the greater DC metropolitan area, by improving the quality of water they drink, recreate on and in, and use in their daily lives.
The principal threats to water quality on the Potomac Watershed include nutrients, sediment, bacteria, toxins, and endocrine disruptors. As the southern headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, supplying 25% of the Bay’s freshwater, protection of the Potomac is crucial to restoring water quality in the Bay. Twenty-five percent of the Bay’s nutrient pollution and 34 percent of its sediment pollution comes from the Potomac River. The frequent fish consumption advisories, annual fish kills, nuisance algal blooms, swimming prohibitions, and the impaired Chesapeake Bay demonstrate the need for a cleaner, healthier river. These problems are caused in large measure by failure to enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972 and state and local environmental laws and regulations effectively and aggressively.
The good news is that the Potomac Riverkeeper Network has been making progress, and through the hard work and dedication of our team, we can now see improved water quality throughout the watershed. We have achieved legal victories to reduce or eliminate millions of pounds of toxins, nutrient pollution, and pathogens from effluent from power plants, sewage treatment plants, and industrial operations. In just the past couple of years the Potomac Riverkeeper Network PRKN has been able to develop and expand its Citizen Scientist Water Quality Monitoring Program to 14 public access sites, launch the Swimmable Potomac, the Trash Free Potomac, and the Respect the Shenandoah Campaigns, help pass legislation to require cattle to be fenced out of the river to combat agricultural pollution, launch the 50 Million Mussels Project, spearhead opposition for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline ultimately leading to the cancellation of the project, and hold giant corporate polluters such as Dominion Power accountable for illegal dumping of pollutants into the river. Every day Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s team is working hard to ensure the “Nation’s River,” as George Washington once called it, is clean and safe for everyone.
PRKN is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeepers Chesapeake. Riverkeeper is a registered trademark and service mark of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, inc. and is licensed for use herein. PRKN’s EIN # is 541982624. Financial statements can be provided upon request.
The Waterkeeper Movement
Potomac RIVERKEEPER® Network and its three Riverkeepers are members of WATERKEEPER® Alliance, the world’s fastest-growing environmental nonprofit solely focused on clean water, uniting more than 350 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates around the world and focusing grassroots action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. These Waterkeeper organizations are on the frontline of the global water crisis patrolling and protecting more than 2.8 million square miles of waterways in more than 45 countries.
The Waterkeeper movement’s mission and our mission is for swimmable, drinkable, fishable waterways worldwide. We believe that the best way to achieve this vision is through the Waterkeeper method of grassroots advocacy. Where waters and communities are protected by active Waterkeeper programs, Waterkeepers Alliance makes sure they never have to stand alone. Where waters lack protection, Waterkeepers advocate on their behalf, and for all communities whose right to healthy water is threatened.
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Potomac Riverkeeper Network and its three Riverkeepers are also members of WATERKEEPERS® Chesapeake, a coalition of seventeen independent programs working to make the waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable. Waterkeepers Chesapeake amplifies the voices of each Waterkeeper and mobilizes these organizations to fight pollution and champion clean water. The members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake work locally, using grassroots action and advocacy to protect their communities and their waters. They work regionally to share resources and leverage individual organization strengths to expand each Waterkeeper’s capacity for on the water, citizen-based enforcement of environmental laws in the Chesapeake region.
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Riverkeeper is a registered trademark and service mark of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Inc. and is licensed for use herein.