Clean River Waters for Wild Swimmers, Not Just Desirable – Essential

From the Hudson Reporter:

Dreaming of swimming in the Hudson River? Local sewerage authority must start action plan for cleaner waterways

Clean River Waters for Wild Swimmers Essential

Don’t look now, but the Hudson River is on the mend. Marine biologists have reported resurgent oyster populations on the piers of western Manhattan, and humpback whales are returning to New York Bay in droves. No longer is the Hudson a mere receptacle for industrial waste and double-crossed mafiosi.

Unfortunately for the residents of Hudson County, one of the final obstacles preventing the river from being fully safe for swimming and fishing lies directly beneath their feet. Along with several waterfront communities in Bergen and Passaic counties, every city in Hudson County has a combined sewage and storm-water system that overflows during heavy rain events, pouring raw sewage into the Hudson River.

At the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, for example, half of the 18 water samples taken since May 2014 show bacteria levels deemed unsafe for swimming, most coming after rainfall in the four prior days, according to data from clean water watchdog Riverkeeper.

Such combined sewer overflows or CSOs are not just unsafe—they are illegal under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Rather than waiting for the EPA or federal courts to order a corrective plan, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued new permits that require the entities responsible for New Jersey’s 217 combined sewer outfalls to develop long-term plans to reduce the frequency of polluting events.

Positive sign?

Jon Miller, the President of the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, is optimistic that the new sewer permits could mean an end to his organization’s monitoring of water quality in the Hudson River someday soon.

“We have partnered with water testing professionals at Riverkeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper and Resilience adventures among others, to make sure we run a program that is safe for all involved by monitoring outflows and water quality,” said Miller in a statement. “Hopefully in the future this type of monitoring will no longer be necessary as the river becomes even cleaner through the efforts of so many local state and federal organizations.”

However, Fredric Pocci said he doubts New Jersey’s efforts to combat CSOs will be enough to make the Hudson River consistently swimmable on their own. Before coming to the NHSA, Pocci was the chief sewer engineer for New York City, which has 650 combined sewer outfalls in Manhattan alone.

“Whatever we do is a drop in the bucket, literally,” said Pocci. “From what I see right now coming out of the city of New York, I don’t think that they’re planning on attacking [CSOs] the way the state of New Jersey is planning on attacking it, and without them on board with the same kind of game plan, it’s not going to have a positive effect.”

Pocci still thinks Hudson County’s combined sewers are a task worth tackling. “Aside from the fact that this is going to be a very expensive proposition for everyone,” he said, “as a civil engineer, this is very exciting.” More…

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