Accokeek resident Dave Lishin said he’s lived on the banks of the Piscataway Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River, for many years and is waiting to see the day when the waterways are clean and clear enough to boat in and catch fish he can actually eat.
“We’d like to do a lot of duck hunting and boating and fishing, but the creek seems to be too shallow. There’s so much silt in the creek that you just can’t get a boat in there,” Lishin said. “I took my grandkids fishing over Easter, and we caught a couple of bass. One was a two and a half pounder but it was all scuzzy looking. It didn’t have three eyes or anything, but it just was not a good looking fish. It didn’t look healthy at all.”
Lishin was one of about 10 area residents who voiced their observations on local water quality during a Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources forum held May 30 as a first step toward creating a Piscataway Creek restoration plan.
The restoration plan is being created by DER’s watershed assessment and planning program and calls upon area residents for first-hand input to draft a set of solutions to protect local waterways from pollutants.
Carole Ann Barth, a DER technical contributor, said the forum at Clearwater Nature Center in Clinton was the first of three public sessions to solicit thoughts from residents.
Once resident input is collected, DER will draft a plan to restore water quality specifically to the Piscataway Creek, which according to state watershed surveys is largely considered to be in poor condition, Barth said.
“They’re the ones who are here all of the time. It’s an information exchange to get feedback and to get information from them,” said Barth of the residents who live closest to the affected waterways.
Debbie Weller, the coordinator of DER’s watershed assessment and planning program, said there are 33,000 acres in the Piscataway Creek watershed, 19,000 acres that is developed with mostly residential housing and 14,000 forested acres.
Since the late 1980s, stormwater management regulations have been in place to control the impacts of new development on water quality, but little improvement has been seen due to the large number of acres developed before the late 1980s, said Weller. She said the previously developed acreage is a major contributor of pollution to local streams and should be addressed if the county is going to improve water quality.
“A lot has been constructed before stormwater management, so we need to go back and retrofit sites. These older communities are a large part of these impairments,” she said. “Some of it is that we need to teach people — to pick up trash, to pick up after pets — it’s not going to be instant.”
Residents and DER program coordinators also discussed preservation practices such as regulating TMDLs, or Total Maximum Daily Loads of pollutants the body of water can receive without exceeding quality standards.
“Sometimes we lose sight of why we need to preserve. Billions of dollars annually come into the state for health of the bay and the resources harvested from the bay, and Piscataway is a nursery for the bay,” said Clinton resident Randy Pheobus, who heads Native Grassland Conservancy, a nonprofit for preserving native plants and animals in the local ecosystem. “This is really pathetic. We are totally trashing the place. It is hideous, between the pollution and loss of species. We are collectively doing these things.”
The next forum will be held in Accokeek from 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 18 at the Accokeek Branch Library, 15773 Livingston Road.