A while back, we were all a bit concerned about our New York City water exploits. A fire in the engine room at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Harlem caused the plant to shut down, spewing nasty water out into our nearby bodies of H20, and officials deemed the Hudson, and parts of the East River, unfit for recreational activity. Eventually the problem was fixed and all was hunky dory again. But…was it? The New York Times has a piece today on their Green blog that explains that, actually, what you might not have been thinking about during your latest dip or kayak trip (WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?), is that “Sewage routinely contaminates the Hudson River throughout the year, rendering the waterway unsuitable for swimming and other recreational activities for at least one and a half days a week, a report based on four years of water testing shows.”
An environmental group called Riverkeeper released this study today, showing that the effects of the recent sewage spill are actually a pretty common problem, regardless of whether any “official” sewage spill actually happens:
21 percent of water samples taken have unacceptable levels of bacteria because of problems like discharges from aging and failing sewage treatment plants, sewage overflows caused by rain and poorly maintained septic systems.
This comes at a time when the Hudson is attracting more and more people to swim, boat, and fish in its questionably clear waters. If the water stays poopy, say the experts, people will want to enjoy it less. True, true.
A bright-ish note: New York City is actually better off than further upstate because Albany’s sewage plants don’t disinfect, and we’re closer to the Atlantic Ocean, which helps dilute the problem. Except when it rains, and then “unacceptable water samples increased more than threefold — from 9 percent to 32 percent — in wet weather compared with dry weather, the report said.”
It just rained.
Here are some other New York waters you may want to avoid immersing yourself in (they were determined unacceptable 50 percent of the time or more):
Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn – 50%
Newtown Creek, Metropolitan Ave. Bridge, Brooklyn – 53%
Sparkill Creek, Sparkill – 86%
Sewage Treatment Plant Outfalls at Piermont – 50%
Piermont Pier, Piermont – 50%
Tarrytown Marina, Tarrytown – 56%
Newburgh Launch Ramp, Newburgh – 50%
Kingston Wastewater Sewage Treatment Plant Outfall, Kingston – 50%
Island Creek/Normans Kill, Glenmont – 65%
Dunn Memorial Bridge, Albany – 50%