Blogs > Boat Blog > Bubbling water in the Hudson, smoke plumes at Bowline power plant: The mystery continues

Bubbling water in the Hudson, smoke plumes at Bowline power plant: The mystery continues


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Alerted by Riverkeeper, New York State DEC investigates two highly unusual events the same day on Haverstraw Bay shoreline

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating two highly unusual conditions noted by the public, and reported by Riverkeeper, on July 13 along the Hudson River shoreline near the Bowline power plant at Haverstraw Bay.

First, a bizarre scene of vigorously bubbling water along the shoreline at Bowline Point Park was documented by wildlife photographer Owen Cramsie at 8:30 a.m. This video shows bubbles coming up from both the shoreline sediment and water. Both Riverkeeper and Mr. Cramsie reported this unusual sight to the New York State DEC.

Then, at 10:30 a.m. the same day, we observed and photographed a plume of smoke in the same vicinity, coming from the Bowline plant. The plume of smoke lasted about 10 minutes.

According to the Journal News, DEC has identified an operator error at the plant that resulted in the smoke plume and has issued a “Notice of Violation.” Apparently the operator error caused a short period of incomplete combustion, which resulted in the heavy smoke discharge. The dense black smoke was a violation of New York State’s air pollution law.

Riverkeeper cannot say whether the smoke and the bubbling conditions at the beach are related in any way, or what caused them, but we reported both observations to DEC. Our staff has never seen a smoke plume of this kind at the plant, or a condition in the water like the bubbling seen in the video. (Note: This TikTok post from August 2021 shows a similar condition at the same location.)

We understand that the DEC has asked Bowline plant staff to check the shoreline twice a day, and to our knowledge, the bubbling has not been observed again. The fact that operator error occurred at the plant that day, and that the bubbling apparently has not recurred, does lead us to suspect that the two events may be related.

I have contacted numerous scientists – geologists, aquatic ecologists, microbiologists – and none have ever seen a natural occurrence that resembles this bubbling event (except at hot springs like the ones at Yellowstone). Universally, all suspect that it’s from some kind of leaking pipe or conduit below the sediment.

While we all hope that only air was bubbling up at the beach, we also wonder whether the bubbles could be from a natural gas leak, even though Cramsie did not notice any odor when he observed the scene. After speaking with a utility expert and a plumber, both with expertise in commercial, large scale natural gas installations, I’ve learned that mercaptan – a compound added to natural gas so that it has an odor and can therefore be safely detected – can be scrubbed out by layers of sediment and water. So the lack of an odor is not a reason to rule out natural gas as the source of the bubbles.

We’re grateful that New York State DEC is continuing to look into this. We appreciate DEC’s enforcement in the wake of the smoke plume, and the ongoing investigation into the cause of the mystery bubbles.

UPDATE, July 28: We received several reports of a second smoke event at the plant (photo below) Wednesday morning, July 27, and notified DEC, which sent a team. The DEC confirmed a second problem, apparently a mechanical failure, at the plant. As of Wednesday night, the plant was shut down. An investigation into the cause, by both the plant and by DEC, is ongoing.


Photo by Brenda Holohan

CBS New York

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