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Poll: Would you swim in the Potomac?

A boat in the Potomac as clouds move in over Rosslyn (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

A group is seeking to make it legal to swim in the Potomac again.

The Potomac Riverkeeper Network is working to get D.C. to lift its decades-old swimming ban, saying that the Potomac is now clean enough for safe swimming in certain parts of the river. From the group’s website:

Swimming has been illegal in the Potomac in DC since 1971, when the river was plagued with sewage and toxic chemicals.  Passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 led to gradually improving water quality, and our community science monitoring shows that the Potomac in DC is often clean enough to swim at public access points such as the Tidal Basin, Hains Point and Fletcher’s Cove. PRKN will mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act in 2022 by seeking a formal commitment by Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to lift the ban on swimming in the Potomac and to work with the National Park Service to identify safe places for people to swim.

As the Potomac is under the jurisdiction of D.C. from shoreline to shoreline, the swimming ban applies to waters adjacent to Arlington and Alexandria as well.

Boat traffic, dangerous currents, and other hazards mean that not everywhere on the river is suitable for swimming. But the idea of a public beach with lifeguards on the river could be appealing, especially during the hottest summer days.

(For the record, the group advocating for an Arlington boathouse says a public beach adjacent to the facility — which will be near Roosevelt Island and Rosslyn — has not been under consideration. “That has never come up before in our discussions as a group,” George Kirschbaum of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation tells ARLnow.)

Given the ongoing swimming discussion, we’re wondering what percentage of readers would actually go for a dip in the river, if given a chance.

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