Is the Hudson Swimmable? New Partnership Tests the Waters
Columbia scientists will supply the public with critical data on the river's safety.
A common summertime question around New York is: "Is the Hudson River safe to swim?" This has spurred Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the regional nonprofit organization Riverkeeper to carry out a joint study of water quality in the Hudson River. The program is the first to regularly test the water from New York Harbor to the river's upper reaches and to make the data available quickly to the public. It is aimed at pinpointing the processes that affect water quality, and will supply the government with sound science and, ultimately, help protect the public.
Microbiologist Greg O'Mullan processes a sample with Lamont-Doherty summer intern Liz Suter.
Image credit: Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute
- There are times and places, particularly near-shore after rainstorms, where counts of bacteria far exceed federal and state standards for recreation.
- In 2007, 21 percent of samples collected north of New York City had counts of sewage-indicating bacteria that exceeded the federal guideline for contact.
- In the waterways surrounding New York City, 32 percent of the samples exceeded the federal guidelines for contact.
- There are specific locations (e.g., the heavily industrial Newtown Creek in Brooklyn) that have chronically poor water quality conditions.
- Severe storms, even if short-term, can render much of the lower river unsafe for activities such as swimming and kayaking.
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