KEYSER - The Potomac River is continuing to improve in terms of health, and has been upgraded to a “B-“ grade by the Potomac Conservancy.

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The Potomac River is continuing to improve in terms of health, and has been upgraded to a “B-“ grade by the Potomac Conservancy.
The group had initially given the river a “D” in 2011 and a “C” in 2013, based on the amount of pollutants in the water and their effect on the river and its natural inhabitants.
According to Chad Thompson, stormwater specialist with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, “There has been a concerted effort among the states and counties to clean up their waters” in an effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
The decrease in pollution levels of the Potomac, along with an increase in fish and other aquatic life, is a result of that effort.
“Mineral County has done a wonderful job,” he said, referring to the county’s efforts to remove wastewater from the river through the construction of sewage treatment facilities and other efforts.
“We are very thankful for what you’ve done,” he said.
According to a spokesperson with the Potomac Conservancy, the Potomac is the only major Chesapeake Bay tributary to achieve a short- and long-term nutrient reduction in its headwaters.
“Polluted runoff from urban and suburban communities remains the largest barrier to a clean and restored Potomac,” the spokesman said.
The Potomac is not only a source of recreation, with world-class kayaking and fishing available, but it is also a life-supporting source of drinking water and home to hundreds of plants and animals.
There is, of course, good and bad news in regards to the rejuvenation of the river.
While shad, white perch, trout and other game fish are making a comeback, predatory fish such as blue catfish and snakeheads are invading the waters and threatening the native fish.
While the top three pollutants - nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment - are currently on the decline, urban runoff continues to grow as a source of pollution to both the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay.
Thompson said projects are for the Potomac to continue to improve, however, until the river reaches the coveted “A” grade by 2025.
A brochure distributed by Thompson included four suggestions for helping to protect the Potomac:
 - Advocate for fewer chemicals in drinking water.
 - Work toward safer and pollution-free streams and creeks.
 - Help protect riverside forests and accessible parks.
 - Fight for a healthy and thriving wildlife habitat.
Alana Hartman, Potomac/Eastern Basin coordinator, emphasized the need to clean up the rivers and, ultimately, the bay into which they flow.
For more information on efforts to improve the Potomac River or Chesapeake Bay, contact Chad Thompson at 304-822-7266 ext. 3612; or Alana Hartman, Potomac/Eastern Basin coordinator, at 304-822-7266 ext. 3623.