District of Columbia


Raw Sewage in the Potomac River Causes Cancellation of Nation's Triathlon Swim Portion.

Athletes gearing up for the September 7, 2014 Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C.were disappointed to learn that the swim portion of their race had been cancelled as a result of a sewage spill into the Potomac River just north of the race venue. D.C.’s aging sewage pipes had overflowed after heavy rain Saturday, causing a mixture of raw sewage and storm water to overflow into the Potomac for more than 15 minutes, according to D.C. environmental officials, who believed that high bacteria levels, specifically E.coli, made the river unsafe for swimming.

The average sewer pipe in D.C. is almost 100 years old, and most should have been replaced decades ago. And as is the case in other older cities, many of the District’s “combined” sewer pipes also carry rainwater runoff, so that that waste from bathrooms, homes, businesses, and industry flows into the same pipes as rain running off roofs and streets. Storms regularly cause those pipes to overflow and as a result, raw sewage flows into the Potomac, as well as D.C.’s Anacostia River and Rock Creek, during hard rains. In May, for example, five million gallons of sewage spilled across the Capital Crescent Trail and into the Potomac River, denying thousands of runners and cyclists access to the popular trail.

D.C. does have sewer rehabilitation projects underway as part of its Capital Improvement Program. For more information, click here.