Part of that watershed is the Anacostia River right here in Washington, D.C. This river is only 8.4 miles long, running from Bladensburg, MD, to the Potomac River.
The Anacostia is mistreated in many ways. For instance, long stretches of the river have been stripped of all the trees, which help filter water before it enters the river and also help stop erosion along the river banks.
Even worse, the Anacostia is badly polluted. Many species of fish live in the river. But an estimated 60 percent of all the catfish suffer from some form of cancer.
People simply dump their trash into the Anacostia. Storm drains from the District of Columbia empty into the river. And when it rains heavily, much of the city's sewage system overflows and spills into the river as well.
That's right: When we get a heavy rain, your toilets dump right into the Anacostia. Hard to believe, but true.
Yesterday the After 4 gang took a boat ride with our captain, Josh, of the Earth Conservation Corps. They have an office in an old building on the river in Southeast Washington near the new baseball stadium. The building used to contain pumps that sent water from the Anacostia to make steam heat in the U.S. Capitol building.
Josh takes people on tours of the Anacostia almost every day. There is still wildlife on the river. He showed us osprey nests. We also saw cormerants and seagulls and a great blue heron.
We also saw some Canada geese. But Josh says the geese are a problem: They eat important wetland plants. Wetland plants along the river's shoreline act as a filter, remover harmful pollutants from the river. We need more wetland areas, but they have to be fenced to keep the Canada geese out.
Imagine a time when the area around the Anacostia River was inhabited only by native Americans. There were no buildings or cars, only lots of trees everywhere along the river and wildlife. The natives, or Necostans, considered the river their own special market, because it supplied so much of their food.
Now, people give the river hardly a thought. They also dump their automobile tires into the Anacostia. Josh said the Conservation Corps at one point cleaned up a small portion of the river and collected more than 400 automobile tires. Also, everywhere you look trash is floating on the river, mostly soda bottles and plastic packaging.
This past weekend, the Conservation Corps filled 320 bags with trash from Kingman Island near RFK Stadium. But when we passed the island yesterday, the trash was back. Lots of trash.
The reason for so much trash is that people litter everywhere. And the litter gets washed down the storm drains and into the Anacostia. So the After 4 gang began to chant: No more litter! No more litter!
The chant grew louder and louder. It went on and on.
We hope you will take up the chant. Tell all your parents and all your friends. Help the Anacostia and our Chesapeake Bay watershed.
No more litter!