Trash in the Potomac River and its tributaries comes from a variety of sources including littering and illegal dumping. Rain also washes litter directly into the water or into storm drains. Eventually, the trash flows into the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean. It is important that we prevent pollution from entering our rivers because most trash that ends up in the ocean originates from rivers.

Where is the Pollution coming from?

Pollution comes from various sources such as stormwater runoff, single-use plastics and microplastics.

Stormwater runoff is the result of rainwater carrying pollution into storm drains. Pollution, such as trash, pesticides, bacteria, oil, and many other harmful substances, builds up on impermeable surfaces. When it rains, the pollution travels with stormwater down storm drains and eventually ends up in our waterways, often without being treated.

Stormwater Runoff

Single-use plastics are plastic products that are manufactured with the purpose of being discarded after one use. Examples include soda bottles, disposable cutlery, and shopping bags. About 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, half of which was produced in the last 15 years. Unfortunately, 91% of plastics are not recycled. Instead, they are incinerated or end up in landfills or the environment.

Single Use Plastics

Microplastics: Microplastics are pieces of plastic debris that are less than 5mm in size. Microplastics can come from larger pieces of plastic that have been degraded over time, or they can be manufactured for a specific purpose. Microplastic fibers come from clothes. Synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and acrylic can be degraded into fibers.


  • Reduced recreational and aesthetic value in our waterways leading to the disruption of commercial and recreational fishing
  • Hormonal imbalances, reproductive health concerns, and cancer in humans
  • 86:% of sea turtles, 44% of sea birds, and 43% of marine mammals adversely affected by marine debris that infict organ damage, infections, lacerations, etc
  • Disrupts the habitats of animals occupying the lowest level of water bodies by altering their habitat structure, reducing light levels, and depleting dissolved oxygen supply
  • The list goes on…
Help us reach our goal by cleaning up x pounds of trash in 2023

For 20+ years, our organization has made relentless efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act by monitoring the river health, organizing river clean ups, advocacy, and legal services.

  • Reduced millions of pounds of toxins, pollution and pathogens from our rivers and surrounding areas
  • Supported 12 active legal Clean Water Act cases
  • Secured $1.4 million settlement for trash clean-ups and community science water quality monitoring
  • Provided $1.5 million pro bono legal work

Though we have made a considerable amount of progress, our work is still not done. We need your help to continue to improve our water quality and uphold the Clean Water Act

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