Escape from the Nethermost Bottom

Pat Gladding and Masaya Maeda of the Anacostia Watershed Society strolled around the ball park in Colmar Manor, Md. in February 2011.  Near the ball park, there is a series of sediment ponds that receives dredged sediment to cleanse the water.  We were checking the dredging activity to see if it is being operated properly or not.  Then we found something interesting – white dots in the dredged sediment.


White dots can be seen in the dredged sediment
(Click for a large photo)


Collection of Zoom-in Photos
(Click for a large photo)

The white dots were bottles, cans and balls that sank to the bottom of the Anacostia River.  Plastic bottles could sink when filled with water and sediment.  Usually, we can't see the sunken trash in the river because it sinks to the bottom.  The dredging activity “day-lighted” the trash.

AWS learned from our trash trap installed in Nash Run of the Anacostia that about 70% of trash by piece was non-floatables.  Non-floatables may be further divided into 2 categories – neutrally-buoyant trash and sinkables.


About 70% of trash captured in Nash Run was
NON-floatable

Sinkables such as seen in this picture settled around the Bladensburg Waterfront Park where is the head of the tidal portion of the Anacostia because the river loses velocity here.  Neutrally-buoyant trash such as food wrappers, cigarette butts, etc. must have been flowing through this point to the Potomac, the Chesapeake, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean.

This finding stresses our concern; a popular trash boom can collects only floatables which is only 30% of trash.  A boom can improve the aesthetical beauty of the river but will not improve the ecological health of the river very well.

By the way, why the area is being dredged?  Because the area is the head of the tidal Anacostia, a lot of sediment also deposits at this point where the river loses its velocity.  The upstream stream banks are severely eroded by increased peak stream flows resulting from concentrated stormwater runoff that is carried to the river at a time from augmented impervious surfaces.  According to a study conducted for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDLs) for sediment, about 73% of sediment comes from stream bank erosion.  Because the sedimentation is so severe, the recreational use of the river could become impossible without dredging.


Masaya Maeda of AWS tries to row at the Bladensburg
“Waterfront” Park.  This stream was 40 ft deep when
Captain John Smith visited this area in 1608.
Now the river bed is exposed at low tide.

 

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