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Riverkeeper website offers expanded water quality data

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Contact: Leah Rae, lrae@riverkeeper.org (914) 478-4501 ext. 238

Swimmers, boaters, anglers and others can explore test results relevant to safe recreation at 425 locations in Hudson River Watershed

Ossining, N.Y. – An expanded website allows members of the public to find water quality testing data from 425 locations throughout the Hudson River Watershed, from the Adirondacks to New York Harbor, along Hudson River tributaries and New York City shorelines.

The data is displayed on interactive maps that have been expanded this year to include two-thirds more locations than a year ago. The website, https://www.riverkeeper.org/water-quality is the state’s leading resource to learn about water quality in the places we swim, boat and fish.

• Hudson River Estuary data: Riverkeeper is in our 10th year of sampling the estuary at 74 locations on the Hudson from New York Harbor to the Capital District, in partnership with CUNY Queens College and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

• Tributary and waterfront data: Riverkeeper partners with nearly 200 community scientists and dozens of organizations throughout the state to sample about 350 locations throughout New York City, and on the Mohawk River, Upper Hudson, and many other Hudson river tributaries.

“We hope people will enjoy the Hudson and its tributaries, and use our data to help make informed choices about when and where to do so,” Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley said. “Where we can’t safely swim today, we want to see improvements in water quality. By partnering with community scientists to gather samples, and publicly reporting the data, we’re building the case for those improvements. Every sample is a vote for clean water.”

Riverkeeper has sampled the entire Hudson River Estuary since 2008, and expanded into the Upper Hudson in 2016, completing a full snapshot of the 315-mile Hudson River. The project measures levels of sewage or other fecal contamination and seeks to help communities identify problems and solutions. Sources of fecal contamination may include sewage infrastructure failures, sewer overflows, inadequate sewage treatment, septic system failures, agricultural runoff, urban runoff and wildlife.

The database assists kayaking groups, fishing enthusiasts and organizers of events such as the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, the longest open water swim event in the world, which takes place over several days, from Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the Catskills to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York City. The 7th annual swim takes place June 15-22, 2017.

Riverkeeper measures concentration of the fecal indicator bacteria Enterococcus (Entero) using EPA-approved methods. Results are reported in Entero count per 100 mL of water. Entero is present in the guts of warm-blooded animals, and while it is used to detect the likely presence of untreated human sewage, in some cases it may also indicate the presence of fecal contamination from geese, cattle or other animals. Riverkeeper measures results of water samples based on the EPA’s Recreational Water Quality Criteria, which New York State is currently using to update state Water Quality Standards.

When sewage is released to water – often due to overflows triggered by rain – it poses a risk to people who swim, boat, fish or otherwise come into contact with the water. While the bacteria we measure is not harmful, sewage includes pathogens – harmful viruses and bacteria that can cause illness.

The effect of rain can be detected in some cases even two or three days after a rain event. In other places, the water is flushed more quickly with clean water, and the risk dissipates quickly.

Riverkeeper’s testing data also shows that some areas have risk from sewage or other fecal contamination even at times when there has been no alert via the state’s Sewage Pollution Right to Know system. These may result from sewer leaks, connections between sewers and storm drains and other causes related to our old water infrastructure, which is failing and in need of massive repairs.

The data helped to document the need for New York State’s landmark $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017, which will provide grants for communities to invest in water infrastructure upgrades. The overall bill for water infrastructure investments statewide has been estimated at $80 billion or more over 20 years. The Clean Water Infrastructure Act is an important step – but not the last step – toward cleaning up our water.

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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. Since its beginnings more than 50 years ago, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally-recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes more than 300 Waterkeeper programs around the world.

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