Due to sustained community pressure and Earthjustice litigation, D.C.’s Anacostia River is finally recovering from decades of pollution. Dennis Chestnut teaches his grandson, Horus Plaza, how to test the water quality of the Watts Branch of the Anacostia River in Marvin Gaye Park in Washington, D.C. in May 2021. In the 1800s, when quarreling men in D.C. needed to settle an argument, they often challenged each other to duels. The practice was illegal, so the men would often hop across the state line to Maryland to stand off along the Anacostia River in a spot known as “Blood Run.” Dueling along the Anacostia has long fallen out of favor. But in the 1970s, a different kind of fight began brewing in D.C. and around the country as people saw polluted waterways catch fire and birds drop dead from pesticide poisoning. The public outrage eventually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of bedrock environmental laws. These actions were historic and the benefits widespread, except in communities of color and low-income areas that bore the brunt of industrial pollution. One community, who lived next to D.C.’s Anacostia River, was tired of seeing the decline of the […]

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