Sewage still plagues Hudson River

August 12, 2011
Sewage Still Plagues Hudson River

People are swimming in the Hudson again, and while clumps of sewage rarely float by anymore, the water is not reliably clean, says a report released this week from the environmental group Riverkeeper. Four years of testing by Riverkeeper and Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, show recurring hot spots, especially after rain, when overwhelmed sewers divert storm water and sewage into the river. Between 2006 and 2010, the river was unsafe for swimming nearly a quarter of the time, according to the report, How is the Water?

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says swimming is safe north of the Bronx to Columbia County. But most municipalities do not regularly test their stretch of river for pollution; and those that do rarely release the results quickly. In New York City, test results come out years later, averaged across the season, masking extreme events. Not so helpful, as Lamont-Doherty scientist Andrew Juhl put it in Huffington Post this week. “You can find out three years after you were in the , if that summer, the average indicator of contamination was okay,” he said. The city Department of Environmental Protection is apparently reconsidering its stance. An official told DNAinfo on Wednesday that test results will soon be put online regularly. That’s too late for the thousands of triathletes who dove into the Hudson last Sunday, but potentially helpful information for next year.

Credit: Riverkeeper

A fire last month at Harlem’s North River Wastewater Treatment plant sent more than 2 million gallons of raw into the river, but the more pervasive threat may be coming from outdated sewage treatment plants and faulty septic systems upstream.

Sparkill Creek in Rockland County had the worst results in the study, showing “unacceptable” levels of contamination 86 percent of the time, followed by Normans Kill Creek near Albany, with a 65 percent unacceptable rate, and Tarrytown Marina, Westchester County, at 56 percent. If clean water laws are enforced and infrastructure investments continue, more people will use the river for recreation, Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay was quoted as saying in the Journal News. But “if we fail to take care of the river we’ll lose the gains we’ve made and the economic benefits that go along with them,” he said.

Explore further: Pollution worsens in China's Yangtze River

Related Stories

Hudson River PCB cleanup to start

January 26, 2007

Workers must build a Superfund site support complex near Fort Edward, N.Y., before beginning one of the world's biggest environmental cleanup projects.

Memphis to clean up water act

January 14, 2008

Memphis officials are considering treating wastewater with small amounts of bleach to protect Mississippi River recreational users from E. coli infection.

Mississippi diverted to revive Delta wetlands

June 9, 2011

Wetlands around the city of New Orleans are disappearing at such an alarming rate that a University of South Carolina coastal marine scientist predicts there will be little of the marshland left by the end of the century.

Recommended for you

Playing 'tag' with pollution lets scientists see who's 'it'

July 29, 2015

Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot—and ...

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2011
Another example of who is the worst polluter. In this case the "Harlem North River Wastwater Treatment Plan" a government run facility. If this were a privately owned plant, you can be sure government would be shutting them down until they fix their plant. But since it's government, the EPA sees no need to deal with them. Like sharks which don't try to each each other, government employees show "professional courtesy" to other government employees, and they don't have to follow the rules for people who don't work for government.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.