Swimmable Potomac River Campaign

Latest Updates

Potomac Riverkeeper Network Summer 2019 Water Quality Monitoring Results

We had a highly successful summer protecting and defending the Potomac River through our citizen science water quality monitoring program. It’s a key feature of our Make the Potomac Swimmable Again Campaign.  Over the summer, dozens of volunteers collected and analyzed water samples from the Potomac River from Fletcher’s Cove to National Harbor. Monitoring is […]

Is it Safe to Swim?

I’ve been working to protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waters for more than 30 years now, and the question that people most often ask about those waters is whether it is safe to swim.  That’s because people love to go in the water and always have since the beginning of time.  Some people think it […]

We’re Launching the Sea Dog to Help Us Monitor the Quality of the River!

Washington, D.C. – March 19– Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) today launched the Sea Dog, a 42 foot Chesapeake Deadrise, which will enhance PRKN’s capability to protect and defend the Potomac River and be used to patrol, to do water quality monitoring, and to be a floating classroom for environmental education. Nancy Stoner, PRKN president said, […]


New Water Testing Program at PRKN!

I’m really thrilled to announce the launch of our water quality testing program in D.C. waters! Potomac Riverkeeper is partnering with Anacostia Riverkeeper, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Audubon Naturalist Society, Rock Creek Conservancy and DC’s Department of Energy and the Environment (which provided the grant), to begin regular weekly testing for bacteria in DC’s […]


DOEE Water Quality Standards, Proposed Rule Comments

Our comments on the Department of Energy and Environment’s (“DOEE”) proposed changes to water quality standards, based on the 2016 triennial review. These comments are submitted by: Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Watershed Society, Audubon Naturalist Society, Clean Water Action, DC Environmental Network, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Potomac Conservancy, Potomac  Riverkeeper Network, Rock Creek Conservancy, and Wentworth Green Strategies (collectively “Commenters”). […]

PRKN Comments on Alexandria’s Long Term Control Plan

We filed comments regarding the City of Alexandria’s revised Long Term Control Plan submission to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Consistent with our statements at recent public meetings, we support the City’s Option B+ plan for significantly reducing discharges of untreated sewage and polluted stormwater from the city’s combined sewer system (CSO).  While we support the City’s Plan, […]

EPA Permit for DC Sewage Treatment Plant Fails to Protect the Potomac and Public Health

On November 1, 2017, Potomac Riverkeeper Network sent comments to EPA calling for major changes to the Clean Water Act discharge permit for the Blue Plains Wastewater plant in Washington D.C. While the DC government has invested heavily to upgrade this facility and reduce untreated sewage discharges from its combined sewers, the draft permit still fails […]


Daily Limits on Bacteria to Protect Public Health

Washington, DC, like many older east coast cities, has a public health and water pollution problem when rainfall overwhelms its outdated sewer system and causes high volumes of untreated sewage bacteria to be dumped into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Animal waste washed from the street and parks into storm drains adds to the problem, […]


All of the water bodies covered by the bacteria TMDLs in DC are designated as Class A, meaning they are intended to be clean enough for primary contact recreation uses like swimming and kayaking. For heavily-used aquatic recreation areas, like the DC area, the EPA recommends that water quality criteria include a second (usually higher) concentration level to address short-term exposures. The pollution caps approved by the EPA do not account for short-term spikes in fecal bacteria concentrations that occur after rainfall, and violate the District’s water quality standards, and it keeps people at risk of serious illness.” In addition, the Clean Water Act permit issued by the EPA for the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant fails to set daily limits, instead relying on a monthly average to determine whether the discharges pose a risk to paddlers and swimmers in the river.

Status update: In August 2016 our attorneys at Earthjustice submitted a civil complaint to the U.S. District Court for D.C. on behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Anacostia Riverkeeper, and the Kingman Park Civic Association. We are suing the EPA for approving “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for E. coli in the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, Rock Creek, and their tributaries that fail to meet safe water quality standards. In November 2017, we submitted comments challenging Blue Plains’ draft permit because it fails to set daily limits and fails to require updated public notification procedures when untreated sewage is discharged in the river.