USA: Riverkeeper Releases Report on Contamination in Hudson River Estuary

Riverkeeper released its second report on sewage contamination in the Hudson River Estuary today, “How Is the Water? 2012” detailing the ongoing widespread problem of sewage pollution in our local waterways. 24% of Riverkeeper’s samples, taken from NY Harbor to Troy between 2006-2011, failed EPA guidelines for safe swimming.

This is up from a failure rate of 21% for 2006-2010 and is three times greater than the 7% failure rate at beaches nationwide for the same time period.

The Hudson, like many waterways in New York, is suffering from failures of our aging and overburdened sewage delivery and treatment infrastructure, causing billions of gallons of sewage to enter the Hudson each year. In the past 20 years federal funding to states for sewage infrastructure has been cut by 70%. NYS DEC has estimated a $36 billion price tag to properly address New York’s wastewater infrastructure needs in the coming 20 years.

Riverkeeper’s study provides a roadmap for identifying sources of pollution on the Hudson,” said Tracy Brown, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Advocate and the report author. “The good news is that sewage contamination in the Hudson tends to stay near the source, so communities that have high or frequent levels of contamination on their shorelines can track down and eliminate the sources and improve their local water quality.”

Riverkeeper is working with citizens, agencies and elected officials throughout the region to identify and eliminate sewage pollution. “How Is the Water?” details actions that can be taken now to reduce sewage pollution and inform the public on where and when it’s safe to get in the water. In addition to investing in infrastructure, Riverkeeper is calling for increased water quality monitoring and public notification to provide the information communities need to address their local sewage problems.

Riverkeeper is calling on New York State to increase its enforcement efforts on the Hudson and to update our outdated State Recreational Water Quality Standards. Currently NY State uses only a geometric mean standard (a weighted average) for assessing and reporting on Hudson River water quality. Riverkeeper wants a single sample standard used as well, consistent with beach standards, to better inform and protect the public from the highly variable water quality conditions found in the Hudson. This is especially important in the 9 communities on the Hudson that have Combined Sewage Systems that release large pulses of raw sewage and stormwater when overloaded during rain events. These Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) contribute billions of gallons of sewage pollution to the River and our waterfronts each year.

Press Release, December 20, 2012

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