In general, Riverkeeper recommends that the average beachgoer, swimmer, boater, and kayaker continue to apply the rule of thumb that has been applied de facto for years: avoid substantial contact with the Hudson River and New York City waterways after heavy rains. The data shows that even days after localized storm events, levels of pathogens can remain above the allowable federal guidelines for swimming. Many stations sampled experienced single day measurements that indicate an increased risk of illness from swimming or direct contact with the river water on that day. Even at sites where conditions were generally acceptable, or that had seasonally acceptable conditions (according to the geometric mean), there was still poor water quality on individual days, particularly after rain events.
People are advised to look on our website for information about the areas they are interested in and to use caution where they note elevated bacteria counts in that area. Riverkeeper does not want to suggest that people stay away from the river or from favorite beaches. This water quality monitoring program is meant to inspire discussion and action towards better pathogen monitoring, and thus, increased protection of public health and the environment.
These guidelines are based on a limited data set collected to date and, as scientists and environmentalists, our recommendations err on the side of protecting public health based on that limited data. It is also important to note that this study is related only to certain water quality parameters (namely, sewage indicating microbes) and does not detect chemical pollutants or toxins that may be a source of concern in parts of the estuary. Neither Riverkeeper, Lamont-Doherty nor Queens College serve as a public health agency.
Our study shows which locations that we sample at suffer from fecal contamination, how frequently it occurs, the magnitude of the contamination (how high is the concentration) and if there is a correlation between fecal contamination and rain fall. Each of our sampling site pages has a County Dept. of Health phone number the public can call to request more recent water quality data for any given swimming location.