On a recent boat ride up the Anacostia River, the first warm day of spring had lured anglers to the riverbank. Cooped up over the winter, they seized the opportunity to return to their faithful friend—filled with catfish, perch and bass—to find some peace in nature and some dinner for the night.

But this was no Norman Rockwell painting. These fishermen were casting their lines into the urban waters of Washington, D.C., into a river notorious as one of the dirtiest in the nation. What’s more, according to a recent study, they represented a small fraction of the 17,000 or more residents of this metropolitan area who are consuming fish from a river that has all the markings of a Superfund site.

Flanked by tackle boxes and coolers awaiting their catch, the fishermen sat on picnic benches and beach chairs alongside this murky river on its journey to the Potomac, recently named America’s most endangered river.

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