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Keeping The Hudson River Clean And Swimmable

Craig Michaels of the Riverkeeper organization presented a comprehensive report on how to restore the Hudson River to a swimmable condition from the Adirondacks to New York City.

In summary, he reported that there must be a renewed focus on:(1) better water quality policies; (2) better wastewater treatment infrastructure; and (3) better monitoring and public notification of conditions.

The Riverkeeper’s Swimmable River Campaign gave the following summary of action items:

(1) Better Policies: Better water quality policies are needed to improve the quality of treatment and overall water management via the following.

– Renew New York’s pledge for a Swimmable Hudson River estuary.

– Create cohesive water quality protection policies for the region.

– Increase protection for key wetlands and buffer zones.

– Water conservation should be made a key focus of all water supply strategies.

– Classify kayaking and personal watercraft usage as “primary contact” recreational uses.

– Increase interagency and intra-agency communication.

– Deem all areas where swimming and fishing are occurring as sensitive, whether or not the area is formally designated for those uses.

– Focus monitoring and notification procedures on extreme conditions in addition to averages.

– Establish new public-private partnerships to help create a sound scientific foundation for water quality management decisions.

– Pass the Federal Beach Protection Act.

– Pass the Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right to Know Act.

(2) Better Infrastructure: Better wastewater treatment infrastructure is needed to ensure the lasting protection of water quality via the following:

– Establish a Clean Water Trust Fund.

– Pass the Federal Water Quality Financing Act.

– Pass the Federal Water Quality Investment Act.

– Ensure ultraviolet disinfection at wastewater treatment plants.

– Require all stormwater management systems to incorporate green infrastructure in an

effort to reduce flows into treatment systems.

– Prevent Increases in CSO Discharges and Evaluate Potential for Eliminating Existing CSO Discharges to Sensitive Areas.

– Develop and Implement a Stormwater Disposal Rate on Sewer Bills.

– Enforce against failing facilities.

– Require implementation of Long-Term Control Plans for all municipalities with CSOs and design infrastructure to accommodate increased amount and intensity of rainfall expected regionally due to the effects of climate change.

(3) Better Monitoring: Better monitoring of water quality is needed to understand the health of the river, to track down specific causes of exceedences, and to enable regulators to inform the public with more timely and accurate information via the following:

– Develop a uniform system of pathogen monitoring within the Hudson River Estuary that tests water quality based on spatial and geographical, and not political, boundaries.

– Increase wet weather monitoring at problem locations.

– Develop testing protocols that are spike-driven and based on extremes, not merely averages.

– NYSDEC should list the entire Hudson River estuary as impaired for pathogens.

(4) Better Notification: Better public notification of water quality exceedences is needed so that the public can make more educated decisions about recreational uses of our waterways.

– Estuary-wide notification systems should be based on single sample measurements, or

other data that can capture short-term or localized problems, not just averages.

– All municipalities with CSOs entering the Hudson River estuary should provide timely and location-specific water quality monitoring results for all relevant pollution parameters.

– The government’s computer modeling should be based on actual data collected.

– New York State and municipalities should develop better public notification systems.

These all require political will, social support, money, time and effort. Let’s see what the future brings.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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