OSSINING, N.Y. – Anyone swimming in the Hudson River is more than three times more likely to encounter sewage than in almost all other U.S. beaches, according to a new study released from Ossining’s Riverkeeper.
Roughly 24 percent of all samples tested through Riverkeeper from 2006 to 2011 failed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for safe swimming, according to the recently released report. Nationwide, roughly 7 percent of samples failed EPA safe swimming standards. While Riverkeeper’s samples along the Hudson River vary, the study showed that swimmers have nearly a 25 percent chance of encountering sewage in the Hudson.
Tracy Brown, the report’s author, said it’s important to keep in mind that the averages vary wildly across the 74 testing sites running from the mouth of the Hudson River up through Rensselaer County.
“We have found a huge variety of findings ranging from 3 percent (Croton Point Beach) to 65 percent (Island Creek/Normans Kill) that skews the average,” Brown said. “We put in that overall 24 percent to indicate the overall health of the river but people don’t swim in an average. They swim in one place and at one time.”
Roughly 11 percent of all samples failed EPA safe swimming standards in Ossining, while 40 percent of Tarrytown Marina samples failed and 8 percent of Irvington Beach samples failed. The testing is not a perfect indication of whether the river is “safe to swim,” Brown said, but a strong guideline of sewage contaminants and exposure to things that could make people sick.
“You can get some pretty serious illnesses if you come across the wrong pathogen in the sewage. That’s the big picture that we need to worry about is that these things can make people sick,” she said. “But what’s important to keep in mind is that many beaches, including those in Westchester, exceed U.S. beach standards as well.”
Brown said that testing in 2012 is complete and expects the latest report to be released sometime in 2014.
“Wastewater standards were not maintained along the Hudson River through the past two decades but we are slowly seeing signs of improvement. Lately we have seen a lot of interest from people about these reports and I think the more people know about the problem, the more they’re going to engage and find solutions,” Brown said. “My guess is that the average will go down after our 2012 numbers come in. But again, the average isn’t as important as the specific locations.”
Riverkeeper’s online database is maintained throughout the summer and each individual site is updated monthly from May through October. A link to the study, titled “How Is The Water? 2012,” is also available on Riverkeeper’s website.