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Hickey Run, District of Columbia - Nonpoint Source Success Story

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The District of Columbia is fortunate to have a rich system of rivers and streams flowing within its boundaries. The three largest of these, the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, and Rock Creek, have within their basin a network of smaller tributaries that provide habitat for aquatic life and recreational opportunities for residents. However, these small tributaries suffer from a wide variety of problems typical of urban streams.

Many of the small tributaries' problems are a result of the large areas of paved or otherwise impervious surfaces. Many of these streams experience unnaturally high flows during storm events, which result in eroded stream banks and channels. In a bioassessment of the District's small streams, over half were rated severely impaired or polluted, including Hickey Run.  Hickey Run is a free flowing tributary of the Anacostia River. The lowest mile (.9 mile) of the stream crosses land primarily owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Arboretum and a small section owned by the National Park Service.  Hickey Run joins the tidal Anacostia River upstream of Kingman Lake and approximately one mile downstream of the DC-Maryland Border.  In 1996, Hickey Run was included on the DC List of Impaired Waters for three parameters: oil and grease, PCBs, and chlordane. In 1998, organics and bacteria were added to the list of pollutants impairing Hickey Run.

Backgroundaerial photo

Land in the Hickey Run Watershed is largely composed of industrial and manufacturing use. The stream has been historically plagued by illegal oil and grease dumping. Upstream of the open channel, there are a number of transportation-related facilities in the watershed (gas stations, repair shops, auto dismantlers, etc.), some suspected of not properly disposing of waste oil and other automotive chemicals.  Additional oil and grease from surrounding parking lots, roads, and bridges flush into the sewer during rain storms.

Implementation and Outreach

In 1998, a total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was developed by the DC Department of Health (DOH), Environmental Health Administration, for oil and grease calling for a reduction in point source loads by 89% and nonpoint source loads by 30%. TMDLs establish the load reduction of a pollutant that is necessary, for a water body to meet water quality goals. Because the automotive repair shops were an easily-recognizable source of oil and grease in Hickey Run, outreach was provided by the DOH through the Environmental Education Compliance of Auto Repair Shops (EECARS) Program. Business and industry responded, and the amount of oil and grease entering Hickey Run was reduced by 77.4% or 27.0 lbs/day.

Technological Control

In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed among the DC DOH, Environmental Health Administration, the DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in January, 2004 for outlining the responsibilities of each organization in the cleanup. The MOU calls for the installation of a debris/floatables and oil/grease removal system, which would be designed and constructed by the ARS, in collaboration with the DOH and WASA. As effective as outreach has been, the proposed system will ensure that oil and grease will not degrade Hickey Run in the future for storm events of half an inch or less. Industry around Hickey Run faces high employee turnover, making technological control beneficial in protecting the waterbody from the impacts of poor shop management practices, intentional dumping incidents, and infrequent, but significant spills. With the assistance of Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program funding from the EPA, there is almost $2.2 million allocated for the design and construction of the system. Construction began in 2006.

Restoration Plan

The DC government, in partnership with ARS, is also developing a restoration plan for the Hickey Run Watershed. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finished the comprehensive assessment of Hickey Run and its tributaries in December 2004 and is intending to mitigate the damage and restore the stream using natural channel design. The 0.9 miles of Hickey Run stream is presently losing 1100 tons of sediment per year. Sediment loss is a critical goal of this stream channel rehabilitation.  Between the USFWS and the EPA Section 319 grant funding to the DOH, $234, 040 was spent on the creation of the design plans, and $115,370 was spent on the assessment. Implementations of the plan will result in 850 ft. of natural channel design and improved wildlife habitat and stream functioning.

Resultscharts of oil and grease in stream

These implementation efforts have already reduced oil and grease loading by 88%. The DC DOH Water Quality Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs), conducted in 2002, indicate that Hickey Run is achieving water quality goals for oil and grease. To meet water quality goals, Hickey Run was mandated to have less than 10mg/L of oil and grease.  As a result, Hickey Run has been removed from the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for oil and grease.

These graphs illustrate the 88% oil and grease reductions that have led to the delisting of Hickey Run from the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.

Mid-Atlantic Nonpoint Source Pollution Initiative

EPA Region 3
Philadelphia, PA 19103
May 20, 2005

For more information on nonpoint source pollution, TMDLs and restoration practices, please check out EPA's Region 3 Nonpoint Source Program web page.

Partnerships and Coordination:
Contact Information:

Alexi Boado (alexi.boado@dc.gov)

Peter Hill (peter.hill@dc.gov)

Government of the District of Columbia
Department of Health Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer
Watershed Protection Division
51 N St. NE, 5th Floor, 5030C
Washington, DC 20002

Fred Suffian (suffian.fred@epa.gov)
U.S. EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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