Is the Potomac Getting ‘Dirtier and Dirtier and Dirtier’?

A statement from Michael Nardolilli, Executive Director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin:

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has generated lots of discussion about the Potomac River in a recent interview that included his belief that the Potomac River has gotten ”Dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier. I go down there and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants, who I’m sure are good people, but nobody in our country—.”

The Potomac is certainly cleaner than it was 30 years ago in almost every respect. However, stormwater, and the litter it carries, remains a major impact to the Potomac. Stormwater collects litter from everywhere in the landscape and dumps it in waterways. Research suggests that trash in our rivers is a long-term problem throughout society and is not limited to any particular socioeconomic or racial group.

Research shows the large scope of the problem and assessed efforts to combat the issue, both in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay cleanups. The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup held every spring since 1989 brings thousands of volunteers to area waterways, showing the region’s strength of commitment. Many great organizations organize cleanup events throughout the year and we encourage basin residents to join them. These cleanup are underpinned by research showing that trash in our waterways is a problem created across social and economic boundaries.

Much progress has been made and the Potomac River is cleaner than it has been in decades. Litter is a problem, but it is not the only threat to our Nation’s River and it is certainly not linked with any specific group of people. Nutrients, sediment, and the medical and industrial chemicals placed in the river each day also contribute to the pollution problem. But even with these threats, the resilience of the river and its people is evident. Each day, the river provides clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat to those who are lucky enough to live within its watershed.