On July 8, swimmers are invited to brave the Anacostia River for the first time in 50 years.
The event, Splash is hosted by the nonprofit Anacostia Riverkeeper. Participants will get the chance to swim in the river by Kingman Island underneath the Benning Road Bridge. The free event is in celebration of efforts to clean the river.
“We are thrilled to be able to mark this milestone towards a swimmable Anacostia River with Splash,” said Trey Sherard, Anacostia Riverkeeper. “It’s really a testament to the impactful work that has been done in the watershed.”
Water entry became illegal in 1971 after water quality safety concerns were attributed to sewage overflow, organizers said. Since then, local advocacy groups have worked to restore the cleanup of the river.
“Despite the environmental issues still facing the Anacostia River, water quality has significantly improved over the past few decades. We are as close as we have ever been to the possibility of bringing back a swimmable Anacostia,” said Riverkeeper’s President Suzy Kelly.
In the 50 years, Anacostia Riverkeeper said the sewage bacteria has decreased by 80% in key recreation sites.
"The D.C. Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program has tracked this progress, finding bacteria levels that pass recreational standards most of the time," said Anacostia Riverkeeper on the event's site.
While swimming is still technically illegal, a 2018 amendment to the swim ban allows water activities during special, sanctioned events, like Splash.
Those looking to swim will have a twenty-slot sometime between 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Swimmers must be older than 18 and confident in their swimming ability.