Hudson River in Capital District consistently tests high for fecal bacteria in report

November 16, 2017 05:50 PM

Some of the most consistently contaminated water in the Hudson River flows through the Capital Region, according to a new report out by environmental group Riverkeeper.  

8,000 samples were collected over 9 years on the 315 mile long river that flows from deep in the Adirondack Mountains to New York City. The study tested for levels of Enterococcus or Entero bacteria that indicate disease-causing pathogens associated with fecal contamination.

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21 percent of the samples were higher than the EPA's standard for safe swimming.  Waterford, where the Mohawk mixes with the Hudson, had the most consistently unsafe water for swimming.  70 percent of tests exceeded the EPA standard.  The water tested poorly in samples taken near Troy, Albany, and Rensselaer as well.  

Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley says most of the contamination in the river is from combined sewers that are designed to overflow in heavy rain events and old broken infrastructure dumping sewage straight into the Hudson.

"There's over 660 of those including New York City. Over 100 in the capital region, all the way up to Glens Falls, Utica. So there's a lot of sewage the flows in the Hudson on a rainy day," said Shapley.

We joined Riverkeeper back in August of last year in Halfmoon. Shapley was working on collecting samples of Hudson water that went into this report.

Depending on your experience with the Hudson, you might be surprised to hear most of it is safe to swim in on most days. The lower the population in the area you are swimming, the more likely it is to be clean.

"We are the source this pollution, so if we are treating our sewage properly, we shouldn't have any risk there. But we do have these infrastructure failures. These old pipes that are leaking, overflows, that's where we have water quality risks," said Shapley.

NewsChannel13 has documented the issues with In-Depth Reports. From a leaking sewage pipe in Amsterdam that took months to fix, to Watervliet where home sewage pipes went right into the Hudson for years. We also monitor the millions of gallons dumped into the river each storm. On Thursday, Troy sent out an alert estimating it would dump over a million gallons of sewage into the river because of a minor rain event.

The report identifies $4.8 billion worth of needed infrastructure improvements. $1.4 billion of it is north of New York City.

Riverkeeper estimates $500 million went into Hudson River Watershed wastewater projects this year and last year. Shapley says he's encouraged by New York's investment, but wants the federal government to greatly increase spending.

Here is a link to the full report.


Asa Stackel

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