Celebrating Three Decades of Volunteers Organizing for a Cleaner Potomac River Watershed

One Weekend, More than 150 Trash Cleanups in Maryland, Virginia, & DC


This past Saturday, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and dozens of partners celebrated the 30th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. More than 150 trash cleanup events occurred throughout the Potomac River Watershed, including events in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia & West Virginia. 


The Potomac River is the source of drinking water for 80% of the residents within the watershed. With increasing attention on the beauty of our region’s waterways, and the immediate threat of plastic pollution, volunteers are taking action. Since 1989, more than 150,000 volunteers have collectively prevented 7 million pounds of trash from entering the Potomac River. As part of the region-wide cleanup efforts, event partner Rock Creek Conservancy hosted the 10th annual Extreme Cleanup, coordinating nearly 30 events in one of the nation’s first urban park spaces, Rock Creek Park, and throughout the Rock Creek watershed.

During Potomac River Watershed Cleanups, volunteers collect citizen science data, including total pounds of trash removed and most common trash items. The data successfully serves to implement waste-reduction legislation, including the plastic bag fees and the Anacostia River Styrofoam ban.

Plastic drinking straws are a focus for this year’s cleanup.  Plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found at cleanups. In the USA, 500 million drinking straws are used every day.

“This single-use, plastic item cannot be recycled or composted and they are ending up in our waterways and our communities,” said Hannah Seligman, Alice Ferguson Foundation volunteer coordinator. “Last weekend, volunteers at an event counted and removed 564 straws in just two hours from a small stretch of a stream..”

The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is participating in the Year of the Anacostia celebration by highlighting the nearly 50 cleanup events happening within the Anacostia River watershed. One of the event partners, the Anacostia Watershed Society, will host the Annual Earth Day Cleanup on Saturday, April 21.

“The Anacostia River is on the verge of being restored to swimmable and fishable, thanks to great partners like the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Together we’re celebrating the Year of the Anacostia by participating in clean ups and enjoying the tremendous recreational opportunities offered by the Anacostia River,” said Jim Foster, President of the Anacostia Watershed Society.

With more than 300 #PotomacCleanup events planned throughout the watershed this April, community leaders, regional stakeholders, and volunteers #makewaves (YOTA hashtag) for the water we drink and the rivers we love. You can still join an event this April. Visit PotomacCleanup.org to learn more.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s educational programs unite students, educators, park rangers, communities, regional organizations, and government agencies throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to promote the environmental sustainability of the Potomac River watershed.

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