News > News > Water Quality > Riverkeeper Doubles Water Quality Testing – Partners with Public to Test Tributaries

Riverkeeper Doubles Water Quality Testing – Partners with Public to Test Tributaries

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239 or [email protected]

Riverkeeper and Citizen Scientists document tributaries suffering from fecal contamination more frequent and widespread than found in the Hudson River

Ossining, NY – March 27, 2014 – Riverkeeper has doubled its water quality testing program, expanding to include 165 miles of tributary waterways and 60 trained citizen scientists from throughout the Hudson Valley. The results from this citizen-fueled clean water initiative reveal that the streams and creeks that run through our communities are often more polluted with fecal contamination than the Hudson River, where Riverkeeper has been testing water quality since 2006.

This week, Riverkeeper began publishing the results of these studies online, as well as tools any citizen can use to research water quality conditions in local waterways.

“Without testing and data, water quality problems are often invisible and can go undetected and unaddressed,” said Tracy Brown, Riverkeeper Water Quality Advocate. “It is our hope that the water quality testing we do with citizen partners leads to cleaner, safer water by driving investment in wastewater infrastructure and stormwater management. Our experiences to date bear that out.”

“The data from these studies do not provide all the answers but they alert each community to local water quality conditions and potential problem areas that need attention,” said Riverkeeper Boat Captain John Lipscomb. “Additional testing needs to be done to find the sources of the high fecal counts we are recording. In the meantime, we encourage the public to use the data we are posting to identify locations they should avoid in wet weather, and some that should be avoided in all weather.”

Community concern arose when Riverkeeper revealed that the tidal waters at the mouths of Hudson River tributaries were the most frequently contaminated sites on the Hudson – collectively failing EPA guidelines for safe swimming 35 percent of the times sampled, 2008 – 2013. [By comparison, samples collected in the middle of the river failed 18 percent of the time, and marine beaches nationwide failed 7 percent of the time tested, 2008 – 2013.] Concerned members of the public started contacting Riverkeeper and asking for help in investigating and solving this problem. In response, Riverkeeper partnered with, or helped to form, citizen groups to conduct monthly testing (May – October) for fecal contamination, modeled on the Hudson River study.

The four most frequently contaminated tributaries – Sparkill Creek in Rockland County, Wallkill River in Orange and Ulster Counties, Pocantico River in Westchester County, and Sawyer Kill in Ulster County – failed more than 75 percent of the times tested. Often the fecal contamination levels recorded were greater than 40 times the acceptable concentration for safe swimming and other primary contact activities.

The other tributaries in the study are Rondout and Esopus Creeks in Ulster County and Catskill Creek in Greene County. To date, the studies have supported a number of water quality improvements including wastewater infrastructure repairs, green infrastructure projects and the detection and removal of illegal septic field discharges.

View all tributary data.
More on the tributary data.

Riverkeeper is the primary source for fecal contamination data in the Hudson River Valley. Exposure to fecal contaminated water can cause short term and long term illness and is used as a primary indicator of safe swimming conditions. Riverkeeper’s ongoing water quality studies have led to an increased awareness of fecal pollution, the need for increased investment in our wastewater infrastructure, and the importance of frequent water quality testing and widespread publishing of that data.


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