Hudson River Water Quality and Proposed Storm Surge Barrier
Information about water quality and potential damage if a storm barrier is constructed.
The following information is a response from Riverkeeper to a question about swimming in the Hudson River asked at the July meeting at MYC.
Riverkeeper and our partners sampled more than 410 locations in the Hudson River Watershed in August. Where we observed rain prior to sampling this month, the data show its uneven impact. The Roeliff Jansen Kill, for instance, maintained swimmable water quality even after rain, but the Catskill and Esopus Creeks were profoundly affected. Similarly, most sites in the Lower Hudson maintained swimmable water quality, but rain had a profound impact around New York City, where water quality was very poor, following combined sewer overflows.
Now, imagine that instead of washing out into the Atlantic, that great flush of the city’s combined sewers instead met a wall?
In its study of possible plans to deal with the real risks of storm surge, the Army Corps of Engineers has identified massive in-water storm surge barriers that would wall off New York Harbor and/or its tributaries as the key feature of four of its six alternatives. No matter how cleverly these barriers are designed, they will severely restrict the daily ebb and flow of the tide - the breathing of the estuary.
Would these storm surge barriers create fetid pools behind them, choked with sewage, covered in algae and devoid of oxygen? Would the impacts of the city’s combined sewer overflows “back up” into the lower Hudson?
With 27 billion gallons of sewage and polluted stormwater overflow emanating from 460 points along New York City’s waterfront each year, it’s a question worth asking. But, incredibly, the Army Corps won’t even consider these potential impacts before winnowing its alternatives from six to one or two. The Army Corps will make this fateful choice without considering any environmental impacts of any of the alternatives. The Army Corps will only consider a “cost benefit analysis” - the cost to build barriers vs. the value of real estate protected. The environment is not a consideration - period.
Worse, the Army Corps of Engineers intends to make this historic decision with almost no opportunity for the public to learn and make informed comments. Help us protect the river: Learn more and take action before the Sept. 20 deadline.
In 2018, we will analyze data from more than 5,200 water samples, each gathered by Riverkeeper or our partners throughout the Hudson River watershed. You can help fund this work by becoming a Riverkeeper member or renewing your Riverkeeper membership.
The latest data:
Check out the latest data on fecal contamination in the Hudson River Watershed, the best indicator of water quality for recreation. Remember that the data show a snapshot in time, and don’t indicate water quality today.