A new U.S. Geological Survey study of a 50-mile section of the Potomac River, from Chain Bridge and heading downstream, indicates that the river conditions are the best they have been since at least the 1950s, probably longer. Native plants have begun to grow again on the river bottom. These plants slow down the currents and help to clean the water of nutrients and dirt. Too much of those nutrients (like nitrogen) can lead to algae blooms.
The Blue Plains waste treatment plant in SW D.C. has made many changes to clean up its procedures. In particular, they use bacteria to consume the nutrients that would otherwise cause algae blooms to form in the river. The plant will continue to make further improvements over the next five years.
The growth of the plants means that more fish and blue crabs are living in the river. While this means that it might not be a good idea to dive down to the river bottom because you might get a blue crab pinching down on your toes, it does mean that the river is much better for swimming than at any point in recent memory. Better conditions than have existed since before most of us were born.
For those of us swimming in this weekend's Nation's Tri, this is a good thing.
Here's the full story from the Washington Post:
So on Sunday we'll all be swimming downstream from the discharge of the sewage treatment plant... Perhaps thinking about that during the 1.5K swim will motivate you to a faster split! :)
The swim course is upstream from Blue Plains, fortunately. But it is motivation not to head off-course downstream.
The Potomac isn't exactly pristine but it is less muddy than the Choptank River was at Eagleman. I still can't get my tri jersey completely clean after it got covered in the muddy water from that race. I've washed it several times this summer and it still has a faded brown color. (It's supposed to be mostly white in color.)
This is good news all around, but especially for the River and its inhabitants - which will include us this weekend.
On a semi-related note, Nation's Triathlon updated the water temps on their website:
UPDATE: As of 9/7/2010 the water temperature in the Potomac is between 80-81 degrees. If the water temperature is above 78 degrees on race day, then age group competitors that want to participate in age group results cannot wear a wetsuit, per USAT rules. We will provide another temperature check on 9/8/2010 at 5:30 PM.
Stay tuned: this is a favorable trend with cooler weather forecast for the next two days.
stivnik, in my mind when I hear "results" it means my time/AG place/overall place, etc...however when you say "competitors that want to participate in results" can't wear a suite over 78 degrees, do you mean that "results" won't be provided to or posted for the athlete or do you really mean the athlete isn't entitled to podium spots/prize stuff. I believe results will be posted and your time accounted for but prizes, etc...won’t be given. Big difference since 90% aren't going for prize money but do want their times. newbies may get the wrong impression and not wear their suite for fear of not getting their results (times), when in fact they can wear a suite, below 85 degrees, and get their times, just looking for clarification.
I would consult with the Tri Gods at the Nation's "Athlete Services Portal" for clarification. FWIW, I believe this issue will be moot come race time for podium-seekers and newbies alike, but it Is what it Is (or Will Be).
I am looking forward to a leisurely swim with all the Lane Raging Refugees from HP using me as their Personal Flotation Device during my swim wave ;-)
If you wear a wetsuit between 78.1 - 83.9 degrees (inclusive), you get all the accolades (posted time splits for s/b/r, medals, etc). The only thing that you won't get is a ranking within your AG. Since you are not ranked within your AG, by default, you do not get a podium spot even if you are the fastest finisher within your AG.
This is a general rule. The RD has some discretions. There may be races that aren't equipped to handle a "wetsuit wave." In situations like these, they may scrap the 78.1 degrees rule and say that no one is allowed to wear a wetsuit. Or, they can remove your chip and let you race but your time won't be recorded. It's best to ask the folks at Nation's as to their plans/policies concerning the 78.1 - 83.9 degrees range.
For a point of reference, the DC Triathlon (ran by the same oraganization) had a "wetsuit wave" that swam as the last wave. Everyone, regardless of age, swam in that wave. At Eagleman, the water temp was 79 degrees and no one was allowed to wear a wetsuit. Again, best to get the official word at the expo.
@PotomacTriathlete2009 That is precisely why the DC Tri uniforms are no longer white. The first year we had uniforms they had white as a predominant color, and every time someone came out of a body of open water the uniforms were a lovely shade of light greenish-brown. ;-P Thankfully the 'superman blue' we use for the background now doesn't have the same problem.
From their Facebook page: "Wetuit Update! If the water temperature does not drop below 78F by race day morning, there will be a wetsuit wave at the end, after the last age group wave. If you choose to wear your wetsuit you will not be scored for age group awards. Keep your fingers crossed for drops in temperature over the next few days!"
No way wearing a wetsuit is worth waiting until 9:10 or whatever to start. Unless you are one of the poor saps in the last wave anyways and it would only be a 3 minute change.
Looks like the water temp will be low enough though, so this shouldn't be an issue.
Water temperature is 79 today. High (air) temperature of 82 today, 79 on Fri. and Sat. Of course, the overnight temps will be a lot lower, low to mid 60s. That might be enough to drop the water temperature down a couple degrees. Maybe not.
From the Nation's Tri website:
Water Temp Update
UPDATE: As of 9/8/2010 the water temperature in the Potomac is 78 degrees.