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Results of Second Mohawk River Water Quality Snapshot


SUNY Cobleskill professor Barbara Brabetz samples the Mohawk River in Utica.
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Professors and students from SUNY Cobleskill have teamed up with Riverkeeper to provide a second snapshot of water quality in the Mohawk River.

The partners sampled 120 miles between Delta Lake and Waterford, where the Mohawk meets the Hudson River. (Note that we sampled three sites in August that we had not sampled in July. In the vicinity of Utica, where the barge canal and Mohawk River run parallel, we sampled in the river, rather than the canal.)

SUNY Cobleskill professor Barbara Brabetz samples the Mohawk River in Utica.

SUNY Cobleskill professor Barbara Brabetz samples the Mohawk River in Utica.

At first glance, the results from August 17 look a lot like the results from July 13-15. In both cases, just three sites in the Mohawk and/or barge canal and one point in the East Canada Creek failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for safe swimming. And in both cases, both Rome’s Bellamy Harbor Park and the Mohawk at Waterford, just before it meets the Hudson, failed.

See the results by clicking through to the map below. (By clicking the dots on the map, you will see the latest data. To see previous data instead, unclick the box next to the most recent date in the left-hand column, and click the box next to a previous date.)

While the July 13 and August 17 snapshots look similar, we measured important differences in the degree of contamination. The highest fecal-indicating bacteria counts in August were nearly three-times the highest count in July. The sample taken at Lock 15 kayak launch in Fort Plain showed a dramatic contrast, with a count of the fecal-indicating bacteria Enterococci of just 10 on July 13, but a count of 1,120 on August 17. A swimmer at that location likely faced a far greater risk of getting ill on our August sampling date. (Enterococci counts over 60 exceed the EPA’s safe-swimming guidelines.) Likewise, the counts were far greater in the second round of sampling at East Canada Creek and the Mohawk above its Hudson confluence.

In contrast, the highest count recorded July 13 was in the barge canal at Lock 18 in Jacksonburg. On August 17, the water sample showed water safe for swimming.

The results demonstrate what we already know: More data yield more insights. Which of these results is indicative of typical conditions, and which is an anomaly? Were the differences influenced by scattered thunderstorms prior to the August sampling date? Long-term data can answer those questions in a way that snapshots cannot.

We have plans to take two more snapshots this year, in September and October. Our partners at SUNY Cobleskill have expanded their water lab with the same IDEXX Enteroalert system that Riverkeeper uses to measure fecal-indicating bacteria, which will facilitate future sampling. More and more pieces are falling into place for a new, longterm monitoring program on the Hudson’s largest tributary.

Also don’t miss the Big Ideas blog of the State University of New York, which is featuring this project.

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