While many know New Zealand-born Lorde for her rapid rise to fame at age 17, the ‘Royals’ singer recently dominated headlines for a different reason: she swam in the Potomac River. Yes, you heard that right. D.C. natives were in shock, and the headlines were everywhere – Hits69 said, “Lorde Tells Audience She Took A Dip In The Famously Filthy Potomac River,” and the Washington Post added, “No, Lorde will not grow a third eye because she swam in the Potomac.” But the whole story is much more complicated than that – and Lorde might actually be on to something here.
The bewildering incident occurred on Monday, August 29, in front of 6,000 devoted fans.
“I was lying in the Potomac River,” Lorde pondered aloud during a break in between songs. “I love getting to swim in the water where I’m playing; it makes me feel like I know you a bit better.”
The singer, who was performing at The Anthem in Washington D.C. on the North American stretch of her ‘Solar Power’ world tour, had audiences speechless. And after a few seconds of disconcerted shock, they began to jeer. A chorus of “ewwws” can be heard peppering the crowd in videos of the incident, along with incredulous chanting. And then the tweets began.
The day after the concert, a deluge of memes flooded Twitter, and articles from all news sources sought to get the details of this incident. Did Lorde rent a boat, or did she just jump in? Where exactly did she take the plunge? And furthermore, how many other rivers has she swam in?
Is swimming in the Potomac really as bad as it looks?
To natives, taking a dip in the Potomac is like swimming in the East River in New York, the Mississippi in New Orleans, or the Ohio in Cincinnati – a nasty endeavor.
WTOP News reports that swimming in the Potomac has been banned since 1971, due to the two billion gallons of sewage discharged into the body of water each year. When @victoriaregisk said that the river was contaminated, she wasn’t lying.
However, experts say this piece of data isn’t what it seems, and that locals and visitors alike can plunge to their heart’s content without growing any wayward limbs. In fact, Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks (who specializes in addressing the Potomac’s pollution) lauds Lorde’s efforts and hopes that her actions will break down some preconceived notions that many may have.
“I’m glad that Lorde was enjoying the Nation’s River and getting out and swimming in it. I was out swimming all weekend myself,” Naujokis told WTOP.
Naujokis said that his goal is to get the ban lifted, as it’s antiquated and unreasonable. Recent sewer upgrades, DCist reports, have made the water quite a bit cleaner. Additionally, water quality data shows that there are plenty of pockets where swimmers can jump right in. The Washington Channel, which is right around the corner from Lorde’s D.C. concert venue, shows lower bacteria levels than some popular beaches in Texas and Florida (depending on the day, of course.)
However, while the river has “come a long way” over the past 50 years, Naujokis tells WTOP that you still want to stay away from the river after a big rain, as that’s when you’ll be wading through sewage in more metropolitan areas. Also, you’ve got to be careful with the undercurrent, which widens and narrows throughout the river. Luckily, Lorde’s bandmates shared a photo of the group on a boat in the river, where Lorde appeared to be safe above water.
Lorde’s plan? Just keep swimming
Thankfully, this story has a storybook ending. Lorde didn’t become radioactive (as she swam in the Maryland portion of the Potomac and not the D.C. portion), fans learned a thing or two about the Potomac, and a new D.C. meme was born.
“I’m shook. But now I know why you were laughing,” Lorde told fans after the show. “I’m happy to be a D.C. meme.”