Lift Ban on Swimming in DC

Lift Ban on Swimming in DC

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Potomac Riverkeeper Network started this petition to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

Petition to the Honorable Muriel E. Bowser:


WHEREAS, the Potomac River, the Nation’s River, is the life blood of the region serving over 6 million people with drinking water and is a source of recreation for hundreds of thousands of people every year; 

WHEREAS, the Potomac River has undergone a remarkable transformation;

WHEREAS, residents and visitors alike increasingly enjoy recreating in the Potomac River;

WHEREAS, swimming in the Potomac River in DC has been banned since 1971;

WHEREAS, the Clean Water Act, ensuring the right to “fishable, swimmable” waterways for all Americans, was enacted by a bipartisan Congress in the U.S. Capitol, which is located in the Potomac River watershed in DC;

WHEREAS, October 18, 2022 is the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act;

WHEREAS, the Potomac River has become much cleaner and safer for swimming since the Clean Water Act was passed, as a direct result of the regulatory and funding programs for controlling water pollution to protect “existing uses” like swimming and other recreational uses;

WHEREAS, water quality in the Potomac River is now regularly monitored by community scientists and the results are made public on the free SwimGuide app and other websites;

WHEREAS, the water quality monitoring data collected by community scientists and governmental entities demonstrate that water quality already supports safe swimming in many locations during much of the year, and that water quality will continue to improve as DC Water completes its Clean Rivers Plan by 2030;

WHEREAS, other residents in the neighboring jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia are able to swim and recreate in the Potomac River while DC remains the only major city in the US to ban swimming due to pollution

WHEREAS, swimming used to be allowed in the Potomac River, including a beach in the Tidal Basin, from 1918 to 1925, but that beach was a “Whites Only” beach, and was closed down in 1925 due to racist fears about integrating swimming areas  to include Black people;

WHEREAS, we call on the Honorable Muriel Bowser to commit to providing equitable, clean, safe swimming access to everyone in DC to address past discriminatory practices and recognize that the Potomac River is a public waterway that is cleaner than ever before and this goal is within our reach; 

NOW THEREFORE, We, the undersigned, petition the Honorable Muriel Bowser to RESOLVE AND DECLARE the following:

The ban on swimming in the Potomac River will be repealed as soon as DC (through its Department of Energy and the Environment) determines that there are locations on the Potomac River that regularly meet the Class A beneficial use standards for safe swimming; 
DC Department of Parks and Recreation will work with the US National Park Service and other federal and local partners to identify appropriate locations for public access swimming in the Potomac River based on water quality, the velocity of flows, and other safety issues;
DC (through its Department of Energy and Environment) will ensure that the water quality at all public access swimming sites is monitored during the recreational season and that the public is informed if safe swimming standards are not attained or when an emergency health hazard caused by a hazardous pollutant or condition has occurred;
DC will work with the US Congress and others to identify funding to support the creation and maintenance of public beaches or other specially designated swimming areas in the Potomac River;
All public access swimming in the Potomac River in DC shall be open to all those who live, work, and recreate in DC.

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