Riverkeeper serves as the Hudson River’s leading citizen-based pollution enforcement organization. We serve a diverse population, from urban dwellers residing in New York City to suburban residents to local fishermen and families who live and work in the rural communities of the Hudson Valley.
Riverkeeper combines our patrol boat program, a powerhouse of attorneys, a grassroots base of public support, and strong partnerships with experts in law, engineering, biology, hydrology, economics and energy policy to carry out our hard-hitting enforcement work.
We achieve much of our success with tips from watchdogs in communities along the Hudson and with the support and expertise of the students and faculty at the Pace Environmental Law Clinic.
Due to years of understaffing and underfunding, the New York Department of Conservation (DEC), the agency designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with full responsibility for the enforcement of the provisions of the Clean Water Act in New York State, has an abysmal record of enforcement and pollution control, particularly in regulating the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES).
Today, in New York, more than 8,000 facilities cumulatively discharge tens of billions of gallons of municipal and industrial wastes into the state’s waterways on a daily basis. When added together, the total discharge of pollutants from all SPDES permitted facilities in New York State is over 54 billion gallons per day. Under the Clean Water Act, these facilities are required to have permits that set stringent limits on the amount and type of pollutants that can be legally discharged. These permits are supposed to undergo a rigorous review every five years.
Yet because of the DEC’s highly flawed permitting practices, 90 percent of these facilities are not receiving the requisite technical scrutiny required under the Clean Water Act. As uncovered by Environmental Advocates of New York, the DEC’s own records indicate that the agency has failed to substantially review nearly 80 percent (1,150) of the 1,450 major and significant-minor SPDES permits in the State’s inventory. Chemical plants, industrial manufacturing facilities, research laboratories, and municipal sewage treatment facilities are included among those facilities whose permits have not been reviewed for more than ten years.
While the DEC fails to uphold the tenants of the Clean Water Act, pollution continues to spill – unchecked – into New York’s waterways.
Riverkeeper will continue to aggressively report SPDES violations and advocate for legislative and regulatory solutions to the current enforcement crisis at the DEC.
Billions of gallons of raw sewage is discharged into the Hudson River every year from outdated stormwater/wastewater systems that overflow sewage treatment plants when it rains. This pollution is dangerous to human health and to the aquatic life of the river.”
Due to Indian Point’s vulnerability to terrorism, a laundry list of safety problems, the storage of 1500 tons of radioactive waste onsite, and the lack of a workable evacuation plan, Riverkeeper has been working toward the permanent shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Learn more about these issues and the progress of our battle.
Four power plants on the Hudson River continue to rely on antiquated cooling systems that draw billions of gallons of water from the Hudson River and discharge it back into the river at an elevated temperature, needlessly killing billions of fish that are impinged on the plants’ intake screens or entrained when drawn through the cooling systems.
The Hudson River has suffered some major pollution incidents in the past century. Some of which have left large contamination sites that we are still working to clean up today, most notably General Electric’s PCBs, ExxonMobil’s oil spill in Brooklyn and the toxic brew of sewage, coal tar, PCBs, and heavy metals in the Gowanus Canal.
Between 1947 and 1977, General Electric (GE) dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River. GE’s PCBs are now found in sediment, water and wildlife throughout the Hudson River ecosystem as far south as the New York Harbor.
In 2009 GE concluded Phase 1 of the long-delayed clean-up of those PCBs and has begun phase 2.
Learn more about the history of PCB’s in the Hudson and updates on the process of the clean-up.