Trash is a persistent problem in the Anacostia Watershed, and has serious consequences.

Trash negatively impacts the aesthetics and well-being of communities. It interferes with recreational use and enjoyment of the river. It is expensive to remove from the watershed and it is dangerous to humans and wildlife.

Trash can enter indirectly through an antiquated sewer system or by stormwater.

river trash


Trash enters directly by individuals dumping along the banks of the river and its tributaries.

motorcycle in watts


Types of Trash

Most common types of trash found in the Anacostia watershed are:

  • Plastic bags
  • Food wrappers
  • Plastic bottles
  • Styrofoam


Working towards a Trash-Free Anacostia

The Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009 requires stores that sell food to charge 5¢ for each plastic or paper bag sold. A portion of this fee goes to a special fund aimed at new efforts to restore and protect the Anacostia River.

The Trash TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) issued by EPA for the District and State of Maryland sets a “pollution diet” for trash - trash that exceeds this limit violates the TMDL and can bring large fines for non-compliance.

For more information on the District and State of Maryland Trash TMDL


Screens and traps: Screens on or in storm drains and floating litter traps collect trash as it makes its way through the watershed.

bandalong litter trap

Bandalong Litter Trap installed by Anacostia Riverkeeper, Stormwater Systems, Earth Conservation Corps, and District Department of the Environment


storm drain screen

Screens on storm drains prevent trash from entering the drains and being washed into the river.



CSO Reduction: the DC Water Long Term Control Plan will reduce CSOs and therefore the trash they carry.

Long Term Control Plan for CSOs
As a result of a lawsuit filed against DC Water, it has agreed to implement a $1.9 billion Long-Term Control Plan over the next 20 years which would stop 98% of the 2 billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater that dumps into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek in the average year.  The Anacostia portion of this plan is to be implemented as a top priority and to be completed in 13 years.


The multi-jurisdictional goal to have a trash-free Potomac Watershed  by 2013, and the District’s goal to have fishable, swimmable Anacostia River by 2032 are important benchmarks to which to hold government officials.
Trash-free Potomac Watershed Treaty
Anacostia 2032: Plan for a Fishable and Swimmable Anacostia River

Be Part of the Solution

Other Resources

District Department of the Environment: DDOE works to improve the quality of life in the District by protecting and restoring the natural resources.

DC Water: Responsible for the Combined Sewer Overflows and the skimmer boats to remove floating debris.

Department of Public Works: DPW’s Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program (SWEEP) enforces illegal dumping laws in the District.