Report Finds Many NY Waterways Fail Swimming Standards

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The Hudson River is 325 miles long and its behavior is influenced by ocean tides as far north as Troy.

Shawn Hoke

The Hudson River is 325 miles long and its behavior is influenced by ocean tides as far north as Troy.

The clean-up of the Hudson River is one of the great environmental success stories of our time. A report out Monday from Riverkeeper, however, suggests many of the waterways the flow into the Hudson or around New York City still need work.

Based on 6,000 water samples collected over seven years, the report found that 77 percent of samples taken from the Hudson itself indicated the water was safe to swim in. But tributaries to the river, like Wallkill River and Sparkill Creek, were significantly less clean, with only 28 percent of samples meeting swimming standards.

And nearly half of samples taken at public water access points in the city failed to meet the federally set thresholds. There are stark disparities within the city: Nearly nine in 10 samples at Pier 2 along the East River in Brooklyn met the standards. But 94 percent of samples at Starlight Park along the Bronx River failed.

The report notes that combined sewer overflows or CSOs, which release untreated sewage into waterways during heavy rainstorms, are a major contributor to water quality problems. As City Limits reported in our “The Cost of Water” partnership with WNYC earlier this month, New York City is in the process of deciding how to address CSO contamination of local waterways like the Bronx River and Flushing Bay.

Riverkeeper recommends the state spend more on wastewater infrastructure and on enforcement to track down illegal polluters. You can read the report here.

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