Blogs > Water Quality > Sparkill Creek: What are the adults going to do about this?

Sparkill Creek: What are the adults going to do about this?

Sparkill Creek Comparison Chart

Geometric mean of all samples taken per tributary. Geometric mean is a weighted average. The average contamination levels in the creek far exceed EPA safe swimming criteria. Data includes 2016 results, which are still undergoing quality assurance, so these results are preliminary.
View more images on our Flickr site

Riverkeeper’s tributary community science program started with the Sparkill Creek, and a little girl who smelled something awful at the creek’s edge and told her teacher, “What are the adults going to do about this?”

The teacher was Laurie Seeman, of Strawtown Studio, and with that question, the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, which Seeman led through 2016, and Riverkeeper started to act. Together, we’ve gathered hundreds of water samples, and submitted that data to the state. Unfortunately, the data paints a picture of a polluted creek, with levels of fecal indicator bacteria greater than any other tributary we sample. That suggests that kids, who are drawn to little creeks like this via a strong gravitational force, are at risk of getting ill from splashing and wading in the water. When I think about saving creeks like this, I think about saving childhood experiences such as I had in the Wappinger Creek growing up.

Geometric mean of all samples taken per tributary. Geometric mean is a weighted average. The average contamination levels in the creek far exceed EPA safe swimming criteria. Data includes 2016 results, which are still undergoing quality assurance, so these results are preliminary.

Now, we’re rallying local agencies with a role in managing sewage, stormwater or other water issues to join in an effort to try a new draft Department of Environmental Conservation pathogen source tracking protocol. We kicked off the effort to an overflow audience of 35 at a recent Rockland County Water Quality Coordinating Committee meeting, chaired by Matt Ceplo, also of the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, and coordinator of our joint sampling effort.

There’s tremendous energy and expertise in the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, now led by Larry Vail. Connecting grassroots watershed advocates, state experts and municipal and county agencies, we’re hopeful that this new effort will allow us to move past documenting the creek’s problems, which unfortunately appear severe. We’re ready to act.

Susie the Sampler

2017 Fishermen's Ball
Become a Member