Riverkeeper in Keeping Tabs on Water Levels, Chemicals

Riverkeeper in Keeping Tabs on Water Levels, Chemicals

Health of Potomac River matters more in Mount Vernon area.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D) cleaning up at Hunting Creek, just off the Potomac River.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D) cleaning up at Hunting Creek, just off the Potomac River.

Over the last 100 years the Potomac River has risen 11 inches, and it’s not done yet the Army Corp of Engineers says. In the next 50 years, it’s expected to rise two feet more, putting many waterfront properties in danger.

Dean Naujoks sees the results of the water levels rising while on the job as Potomac Riverkeeper. While he pays more attention to the salinity and chemicals in the water, he sees the results of the higher river level and it raises a concern. “It will overwhelm sewage treatment plants,” he said, and with this comes damage to the shellfish population which acts a gauge to the water quality.

Storms in 2018 were a particular concern and east coast hurricanes seem to be pushing more water ashore which causes damage. The annual pictures of the canoeist on the streets of Old Town Alexandria make a great conversation piece but this is a signal to a bigger problem. 

“We lost lots of oysters in the lower Potomac,” he said.

Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks. 


In January, there were big storms that flooded many places off the Potomac River and Naujoks detected crabs and skates coming upstream pretty far. Then there are droughts downstream in the Shenandoah River that cause alarm too because extreme events like this are not normal.

Naujoks is in close contact with the Chesapeake waterman that make a living on the river and has found them worrying about the water levels and quality. “A lot of this stuff isn’t visible to the naked eye,” he said.

The Riverkeeper Network is based on M Street in Northwest Washington, and the Potomac River is divided into the Upper Potomac, monitored by Brent Walls, and the Lower Potomac by Naujoks. Mark Frondorf is the Riverkeeper of the Shenandoah River.

The EPA reports that coastal flooding has increased since the 1950s and reports that extreme tides have contributed to this in recent years. The Potomac River is considered by the EPA to be in the Mid-Atlantic region where the rising waters have not impacted properties along the shore as much as the southern, region but Mount Vernon residents with backyards right up against the river or creeks that come right off the river have reported issues with the higher water levels.

Learn how to help with the environment at Supervisor Dan Storck’s expo next week.

2024 Environmental Expo

Hosted by Supervisor Dan Storck (D-Mount Vernon)

Saturday, April 27

11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Fort Hunt Park, 8999 Fort Hunt Road

Mount Vernon