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Groups launch water sampling effort in mid-Hudson streams

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For Immediate Release: May 17, 2016
Contact: Sheila Buff, Saw Kill Watershed Community, sheilabuff@frontiernet.net or 518-353-2686,
Kaare Christian, Roe Jan Watershed Association, kaare@nysite.com or 646-431-5954
Eli Dueker, Bard College, edueker@bard.edu or 845-752-2338
Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper, dshapley@riverkeeper.org or 914-478-4501 x226

Community science projects will monitor Saw Kill and Roeliff Jansen Kill; New lab at Bard College to analyze samples

The Saw Kill Watershed Community and the Roe Jan Watershed Association, two new citizens groups, are teaming up with the new Bard Water Lab and Riverkeeper to launch community science projects to monitor water quality in the region.

The Saw Kill runs through the towns of Milan and Red Hook, before meeting the Hudson River at South Tivoli Bay. It is the source of Bard College’s drinking water. The creek’s 22-square-mile watershed includes land in the Village of Red Hook and Town of Rhinebeck.

The watershed of the Roeliff Jansen Kill (known as the Roe Jan) encompasses roughly 212 square miles in parts of southern Columbia County and northern Dutchess County. The Roe Jan’s headwater is in the hills above Hillsdale. It flows past Ancram and Copake, then near Blue Stores, over the historic Bingham Mills Dam, past Germantown, and finally out to the Hudson near Linlithgo.

Community scientists will take samples monthly from 15 locations in the Saw Kill and its tributaries, starting Friday, May 20, and from 14 locations in the Roe Jan and its tributaries, starting Saturday, May 21.

Saw Kill samples will be analyzed at the new Bard Water Lab for a number of water quality parameters, including Enterococcus, a fecal indicator bacterium used to assess water quality for swimming and other recreation; sediment loading; nutrients and other indicators of water quality. This is in some ways a reboot of a water quality monitoring program conducted by Bard College and the Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council from 1976-1982. Roe Jan samples will be analyzed at the Bard Water Lab for Enterococcus.

Water quality monitoring is one of several projects of the Saw Kill Watershed Community, which was created in 2015 with funding from the Environmental Protection Fund, through a grant from Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Other projects include streamside conservation efforts with Scenic Hudson and the DEC’s Trees for Tribs program; research tracking road salt migration to waterways and drinking water; increased waterway accessibility; and watershed assessment and planning. Water quality monitoring is the first project of the Roe Jan Association.

Riverkeeper has been monitoring water quality in the Hudson River Estuary since 2008 in partnership with CUNY Queens College and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Riverkeeper supports other community science projects to monitor water quality in the Mohawk River, Catskill Creek, Esopus Creek, Rondout Creek, Wallkill River, Quassaick Creek, Pocantico River, Saw Mill River, Sparkill Creek, and at public access points in Ossining and throughout New York City. Data is published on Riverkeeper’s website.

Eli Dueker, Bard Water Lab Director and Assistant Professor in the Environmental and Urban Studies Program said: “Community-driven science is key to successfully addressing the pressing issues surrounding access to clean water: from Flint to Hoosick Falls to Newburgh, we are daily being reminded of the importance of community members working to maintain water quality, from the tap to the treatment plant and to our scenic Hudson Valley waterways. The Bard Water Lab is happy to serve as a scientific connection between concerned community members and their water, in whatever way they engage with it: through swimming, fishing, boating, drinking, or flushing.”

Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program Manager, said: “These projects help the public make informed choices about recreation and prioritize efforts to reduce pollution. We’ve seen important investments made to improve water quality, at the local and state levels, thanks to the data gathered by community scientists throughout the Hudson River Watershed.”

Saw Kill Watershed Community member Sheila Buff said, “The Saw Kill today is in relatively good condition. A major goal of the Saw Kill Watershed Community is to help keep it that way by raising community awareness and developing improvement projects, such as tree planting to help with erosion problems. We’re also working to assess and improve community access to the stream.”

Roe Jan Watershed Association founder Kaare Christian said, “The Roe Jan watershed drains about a quarter of Columbia County, but few county residents could point to it on a map. The newly founded association’s first project is to work with Riverkeeper to find out how the Roe Jan is doing, clean, or not. Further along, we plan to work on issues such as access and community awareness. And if advocacy is required, we’ll be there. The health of the entire Hudson valley starts with the health of its streams, and the Roe Jan is one of the most important, and today one of the least understood.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photographers are welcome, or photographs of community scientists taking samples or using lab equipment can be made available.

About the Saw Kill Watershed Community
The Saw Kill Watershed Community (SKWC) protects the Saw Kill watershed and its ecological, recreational, and historic resources through hands-on science, education, and advocacy.

About the Roe Jan Watershed Association
The Roe Jan Watershed Association is working to increase our understanding of the historic Roeliff Jansen Kill, to increase access to the river, and to be a voice for the watershed.

About the Bard Water Lab
The Bard Water Lab, with seed funding provided by the Hudson River Foundation, is housed in the Bard Ecology Field Station. Its purpose is to promote community engagement with the science behind sustainable management of water resources, including waterways, drinking water, and wastewater.

About Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

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