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Potomac River Shoreline Cleanup Resources

Calling all Trash Avengers, Pollution Picker-uppers, Shoreline Savers, and Cleanup Contractors! As the weather warms and spring rains descend, the Potomac River shoreline will increase in biodiversity and activity as all of the hibernators wake up and migrators return. However, that activity also includes an increase in man-made biohazards and waste washing onto the banks as the Potomac carries it towards the Bay.

While this sight alone is grieving to the eye, beneath the visible pollution lies dangerous impacts on the local environment. I was raised to clean up after myself when I make a mess. Like it or not, admit it or avoid it, this is OUR MESS! The good news is, you are not alone in your efforts to clean up the river. Together, we can make sure we leave 'no trace' and work to improve our impact so we can be positive contributors to the watershed.


Whether you cleanup regularly, are doing it for the first time, or fall somewhere in-between, we've compiled a list of resources and educational materials to help you step up your game.

Why Should I Cleanup the River?


It's a good question and one that local scientists have explored in detail. There are many different parts of the watershed that can be affected due to pollution.


Learn about TDMLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads)

  • Learn about the TDML policy for all waterways (Pollution Tolerance Level)

  • Learn about how the TDML Policy for your area influences the watershed care plan. Check out how D.C. has used its TDML policy to create a management plan for pollution. Check out PG County's Watershed Restoration Plan.

  • Download this PPT breakdown of the Anacostia River's management plan for pollution influenced by the TDML policy.

  • Learn about the types of pollutants that are traveling down our waterways and out into the ocean. Each one has a different but equally impactful effect on the ecosystem. Check out the daily TDML numbers calculated for the D.C. watershed. (We cleanup the Potomac River watershed.)

  • Take a big picture look at the PG County Coastal Management Plan.


Learn more about the impact of trash on our watersheds


How You Can Help!


Now that you've learned more about pollution and its impact on the watershed, explore some of the ways you can help improve the cleanliness of the watershed in your area.



  • Check out this article about how one man is cleaning up the Potomac River. Imagine the impact we could have if even 50 people did what he is doing!

  • Check out organizations/coalitions like Our Last Straw, dedicated to decreasing pollution by changing consumer behavior.

How to Clean Up Safely:

Do you want to clean up, but don't want to do it incorrectly or are concerned about safety? Below are some guides/training resources for cleaning up safely while maximizing your impact!

  • Check out the Accokeek Foundation's Mission Briefing/Safety guidelines to learn how you can prepare and cleanup safely.

  • Learn how to organize your own cleanup by following the Ocean Conservancy's guide.

  • Make a plan for how to handle sharps or dangerous trash. Always wear gloves and never put sharp objects into trash bags. Research how to dispose of sharps properly. If you're participating in a cleanup here at the Accokeek Foundation, we will supply sharps containers or tell you not to pick them up.

  • Track what you clean up. Using the Foundation's data sheet here, don't forget to submit the numbers of items you find. This helps us track what is being found in the river, and can directly impact local 'refuse to use' initiatives.

You've done your research, know your stuff, and are ready to clean up safely. Now all you need is to get outside and start tidying up. If you would like to schedule your own cleanup, coordinate with the Trash Free Potomac Network or contact our volunteer coordinator to schedule a Piscataway Park Shoreline Cleanup.