Potomac River health and safety guidelines are inconsistent across local jurisdictions, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. The District of Columbia bans swimming in the Potomac, Montgomery County says it’s generally safe, and Prince George’s County advises people to stay out, stopping short of a ban. Environmental groups suggest that all of that advice could be prudent, depending on weather conditions.
Though littered with debris, a more pressing safety concern is the level of fecal bacteria in the Potomac; levels rise and fall above or below the federally-sanctioned threshold before and after rainstorms. Last year, 32.5% of bacteria tests produced dangerous results. Dangerous levels of bacteria tend to appear during and after rainstorms, when rainwater runoff carries raw sewage directly into the river. Eventually, bacteria levels subside.
For now, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin offers the following safety advice for people spending time in or around the river:
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