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7 Signs of Progress for the Hudson 7

Hudson 7In its first year, the Hudson 7 has taken important steps toward its goal of protecting the source of drinking water for more than 100,000 people: The Hudson River Estuary. May 31 marked the one year anniversary of the signing of the agreement that brought the communities together as the Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council.

The council’s members include the City and Town of Poughkeepsie, Village and Town of Rhinebeck, and the Towns of Esopus, Hyde Park and Lloyd. The council has prioritized actions using a report based on Riverkeeper’s Drinking Water Source Protection Scorecard.

Priority concerns identified by the council include the state of water infrastructure, including combined sewer overflows; the risk of spill of crude oil or other hazardous substance; Central Hudson’s remediation of coal tar related to a former manufactured gas plant in Poughkeepsie; disinfection byproducts; and the presence of pharmaceuticals and other unregulated contaminants.

Here’s a look at some of the progress made in the past year on these issues:

Improving water infrastructure. Improving treatment of wastewater is a high priority for source water protection for the communities, as is improving their own drinking water treatment facilities. In 2018, $33 million was committed by state and local governments to improve water or wastewater infrastructure in the Hudson 7 communities and adjacent communities that discharge treated wastewater to the Hudson River or its tributaries.

Minimizing the risk of crude oil spills. The Council had representation in the  Hudson River Oil Spill Risk Assessment Workshop, and on the Hudson River Navigation, Safety and Operations Committee, influential forums where concerns about the risks from transportation of crude oil or other hazardous substances are addressed.

Advocating for broad Source Water Protection planning. One of the primary goals of the Council is to create an actionable plan with state support that can prioritize projects to improve water quality. In June 2018, the Council requested a new Source Water Assessment, to update risk assessments produced by the New York State Department of Health in the early 2000s. In February 2019, the Town of Esopus, on behalf of the Council, applied for support by the state under its new Drinking Water Source Protection Program.

Raising concerns about projects that affect water quality. One of the guiding ideas behind the Council is that the seven communities are stronger when they speak with one voice. The Council used that voice to support water infrastructure investments, and to raise concerns about both an Army Corps of Engineers study that could result in the construction of storm-surge barriers at the mouth of the river, and a Wheelabrator proposal to open a dump for trash incinerator ash in Catskill.

Studying priority water quality concerns. In March 2019, Tighe & Bond presented the results of a first-of-its-kind survey of disinfection byproduct issues facing each of the five treatment plants that serve the Hudson 7 communities. The Council also hosted educational presentations about disinfection byproducts; coal tar; and unregulated contaminants like certain pharmaceuticals, pesticides and industrial compounds.

Local planning to prioritize water protection. Both the Town of Esopus and Town of Poughkeepsie are updating their comprehensive plans and considering change that would improve protection of creeks that flow through their towns to the Hudson. Their work with Riverkeeper on the Hudson 7 has helped to elevate water protection as a concern to be addressed through the master planning process.

Raising awareness about the Hudson as a drinking water supply. The Council launched, and together with Riverkeeper, has helped many people learn that the Hudson River is not only a recreational, scenic and wildlife asset, but also the source of drinking water for more than 100,000 people. A map of the Hudson River water supply, a film by Jon Bowermaster, Source to Sea, and Mill House Brewing Co.’s Ship Rocked IPA all helped raise awareness about this important fact in the last year.

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