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Hudson River Was Safe in Westchester: Riverkeeper

OSSINING, N.Y. – Even close to the shore, bacteria levels in Westchester were safe on July 21, a day after a fire in a Manhattan sewage treatment plant caused untreated sewage to begin dumping into the Hudson River, data from the Riverkeeper environmental watchdog organization showed.

Water samples taken on July 21 at Yonkers where the Saw Mill River enters the Hudson, and at the Yonkers sewage treatment plant site, showed bacteria levels of less than 10 Enterococcus cells per 100 milliliters, Riverkeeper data showed. The federal guideline for unacceptable water quality is a single sample value above 104 Enterococcus cells per 100 ml.

“For protecting public health it is important that people are aware of the potentially high levels of pollution in the shoreline environment because that is where people generally come into contact with the water,” Riverkeeper officials said in a press release.

Riverkeeper officials said their water safety data was somewhat different from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s data because of differences in where water samples were taken. Riverkeeper boat captain John Lipscomb sampled water in a grid pattern on July 21 from the Tappan Zee Bridge down to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. Samples were taken close to the western, New Jersey shoreline, mid-river, and close to the eastern, Westchester and Manhattan shoreline.

Allong the eastern shoreline, pollution levels rose dramatically south of Yonkers, Riverkeeper data showed. At the Dykeman Street public pier near 200th Street in Washington Heights, Manhattan, Enterococcus counts were over 24,000 cells per 100 ml. Counts reached a maximum at the 125th Street Pier, the point closest to the failing sewage plant at West 135th Street and 12th Avenue, with 104,620 Enterococci cells per 100 ml.

The county Department of Health advised residents on July 22 to avoid direct contact with the Hudson River south of Ossining, but did not restrict boating. All water activities including swimming and kayaking were cleared for areas of the Hudson River north of Ossining.

The sewage leak from the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant was contained on July 22 around 9:30 p.m., New York City Department of Environmental Protection officials said.

According to Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, swimming in waters containing unsafe levels of bacteria could lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, or infection of wounds. The Hudson River generally has higher levels of contamination during and after rain due to combined raw sewage and storm water that is discharged into the river to prevent the overwhelming of sewage plants.

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