Anacostia Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Anacostia River for all who live, work, and play in its watershed.
Established in 2008, Anacostia Riverkeeper has been a trusted name in Washington DC and Maryland metropolitan communities for over ten years.
Anacostia river-keeper Trey Sherard said to Egypt Today that their main target is to clean the Anacostia river.
“ We want to restore the river, we want it to be better than what it is right now. We want to protect the river so that it doesn't get worse in order to keep the gains that we've made and then we try to work really hard on connecting people to the river in other words bring people closer to the river” Sherard said.
Sherard further explained that this river has previously been called the “Forgotten River” .
“It's no longer forgotten as a lot of people are rediscovering this river now. It's getting a lot of attention from agencies and from other nonprofit organizations, but the problem is that there's so much work that must be done” Sherard recounted.
Sherard explained that People that have lived in Washington DC for generations, especially people of color, have been told for a long time not to go anywhere near the Anacostia river because it was dangerous at that time.
“They've been told not to go near certain parks because it might be dangerous or risky and at certain time in history, that was true. So we are also working on reconnecting people to their river to start to care about it and we really need to be able to rebuild that relationship.”
Sherard added that they organize boat tour for free to the public.
“We get paid by the city government to offer those boat tours. In DC it's actually really cool because the money they're using to pay us to educate the population is actually coming from the tax on disposable bags. So if you go out to eat or if you pick up something at a store in Washington DC, you will be charged 5 cents. Right? You'll be charged a nickel for whatever kind of retail bags that they give you, regardless of whether it's plastic or paper, 4 cents of that nickel goes into a fund and then the Department of Energy and Environment of DC decides where that money goes. One of the things that they fund is free boat tours.”
Sherard added that Anacostia Riverkeeper tries to recycle some of the trash they get out of the river but not all of it is deemed recyclable.
“ There's a lot of issues right now with Washington DC's recycling system. The city's waste diversion rates are really low. We have a lot of issues in the city government right now with the waste agencies. Most of the waste we extract from the water is plastic and plastic is oil. The US government currently subsidizes oil, gas production and extraction so plastic shouldn't be the cheap choice, but it's artificially cheap."
On how Anacostia Riverkeepers gets rid of the waste it extracts from the river Sherard explained that it depends on where they are.
“So when we're only going to have a few bags from the cleanup, we have a partnership with the Business Improvement District in this area, they have their clean and safe team. We put our bags next to one of the trash cans you see, and they take it. If we're working on a national park service site, which is the case for the park across the river Anacostia Park, then the National Park Service maintenance team will come pick up the trash and the recycling that we pool, if we're working on a city park or up in the counties in the Maryland, we'll work with those jurisdictions as well, so we're fortunate here because we don't usually have to take stuff to the dump ourselves to dispose, it happens but it's not usually the case” Sherard explained.
Sherard said that every water keeper is designated by a certain watershed.
“ So I am the Anacostia River keeper, I am strictly to work and advocate for this watershed. There is a whole other group called Potomac River Keep who work to clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries. So there's 350 of us in 40 different countries right now. Different. There are three different water keepers on the Jordan River, one for Israel, one for Jordan, and one for Palestine. There are a few of us in Europe, but not a lot. Riverkeeper concept started in the US” Sherard added.
Sherard said that there are about 10 water keepers right now in China.
“ Here in the United States, we sue our government a lot, which is obviously not allowed for Chinese water keepers, but they're able to do a lot of the outreach work, a lot of the monitoring and science work that we do as well.”
One other thing we do, sorry, green infrastructure. Green infrastructure. So we do things like syns and rain gardens. We stick to mostly large sites like churches or other community centers, places where hundreds of people may attend. That church becomes a trusted source for all of the congregants there. That community center is a trusted source for all of the families that come there. And so we wanna see the ripple effect of not only capturing the storm water from a large parking lot or a large roof, but doing so in a very public way so that all of the members of those communities will then be able to be better educated and they may become more likely to take advantage of incentives, like rebates that the local jurisdictions offer for them to do stuff on their own property.
Sherard admitted that the US needs to do a lot more effort. “That's not the fault of everyone in the US. We really need to stop using plastic for things that are only meant to be used for 30 minutes or for an hour.”
Sherard advices everyone to go out and enjoy their waterway. “If you don't know where it is, go to the park, go to whatever it is and use your waterway. Then find out who else is taking care of that waterway and think how you can help those groups, whether they're a non-profit or an agency or just some people who are picking up trash on their own and again, we really need to do something about plastics. That is such a big demand for oil and gas right now.”