Hudson Valley News
10:37 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Environmental Group Reports on Sewage Contamination in the Hudson River

There’s a report out by an environmental advocacy group in the Hudson Valley detailing where sewage contamination is in the Hudson River, from New York City to Troy. The report is in response to the increased recreational use of the Hudson, with more people swimming and boating.

The report from Westchester County-based Riverkeeper is the group’s second on sewage contamination in the Hudson River. According to the report, 24 percent of samples taken along the 155-miles of river failed the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for safe swimming. That failure rate is up a few percentage points from Riverkeeper’s first report, and more than three times the failure rate of beaches nationwide for the same 2006-2011 timeframe. Tracy Brown is Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Advocate and the report’s author. She says the Hudson needs to be tested as if it were a beach.

In an e-mailed response, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman says that the agency is reviewing recently-released national recreational criteria for incorporation into New York State standards. She also says DEC has identified wastewater infrastructure as needing repairs and upgrades and is involved in many programs aimed at helping municipalities fund repairs. Riverkeeper’s Brown notes the DEC has estimated a $36 billion-dollar price tag to address New York’s wastewater infrastructure needs in the coming 20 years.

Brown says the sampling found there is great variability of water quality in the Hudson as it pertains to sewage contamination, even within a few miles. She says this indicates the sewage is staying close to where it has entered the water. Here is one spot where she says there is contamination.

Yet further south, in parts of Westchester County, she points to a few safe recreational places.

Her hope is that there is increased public awareness about Hudson River water quality, along with access to sampling data; and she urges county officials to sample the water for sewage contamination and publicly post the findings. She points to New York City and Westchester as standouts when it comes to this, with Westchester ahead of the curve in having a notification law for when there are unsafe sewage levels in the river. And Brown says New York City officials frequently sample, and recently have started to post the findings.

In addition, DEC has developed citizen monitoring efforts to augment the state’s monitoring and assessment programs.