Eels Live in D.C. Streams! Who Knew? But So Do Other Things That Aren’t Helping Our Water Quality

ANS Report on Local Streams Gives Lowdown on Good, Bad, and Ugly

For Immediate Release – December 6, 2018

For more information, contact Caroline Brewer, Director of Marketing and Communications, at caroline.[email protected] or 301-652-9188x 23, or Eliza Cava, Director of Conservation, at [email protected] or 301-952-9188 x 22

CHEVY CHASE, MD – The Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) today released its new report from the Conservation Department on the health of streams in our nation’s capital and it contains some good, bad, and, ugly news.
Titled Stream Health at Select Tributaries in Rock Creek in Washington, DC, the report, which covers nine years of monitoring at three Northwest DC neighborhood streams, found an abundance of aquatic life, from mayflies to salamanders, and even eels (which were an essential food source for Native American communities in our region and are now very rare). That’s the good.

But the report, authored by Water Quality Monitoring Program Coordinator Cathy Wiss, also found that health in all streams has declined to a “poor” state. Two of the three streams have stable communities of aquatic organisms, with one showing improvement over time. The third has declined in biological health, and all have lost diversity and numbers of aquatic organisms due to polluted runoff and leaks from underlying sanitary sewage pipes. The report’s conclusions are based on the data and observations supplied by the volunteers of ANS’s Water Quality Monitoring Program, one of the nation’s longest-running community science programs.

Jeanne Braha, Executive Director of Rock Creek Conservancy, said, “This sort of rich, long-term data is so helpful to identifying issues and priority areas as we work to restore Rock Creek and its parklands. We appreciate ANS’s partnership and the great work they do to help us better understand the Creek.”

Eliza Cava, Director of Conservation at ANS, said, “D.C. residents know and love Rock Creek Park. Yet this report helps make clear that the park and its streams are also home to small kingdoms of plants and animals that, literally, are our bffs – bffs with powers like the ability to clean waste, enrich soil, and warn us of dangers. Our friends do their magical work in the sunshine and darkness, hidden from the hurried and unaware among us. One way to express proper gratitude is to ensure that they can grow healthier and more abundant.”

ANS’s three monitoring sites include: (1) Pinehurst Branch, just upstream of Beach Drive NW (2) Melvin Haven Run in North Cleveland Park and (3) Normanstone Run at Normanstone Drive and 30th Street, NW. The monitoring teams visit the sites three to four times a year.

The Stream Health report concludes with four major recommendations to DC and federal government officials: (1) Monitor water quality more often (2) Add to the D.C. “species of greatest concern” list insects and other aquatic organisms that are becoming rare (3) Look for sources of polluted discharges into these streams (4) Manage stream restoration projects to prevent oils and road salt from getting into the streams.


Follow ANS at: Naturalist SocietyNaturalistSociety, 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has played a pivotal role in conserving our region’s iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS‘s nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.