The Citizens Water Quality Testing project was started in response to the growing interest in paddling, rowing and swimming in the waters around New York City and the scarcity of timely data on water quality to inform and support those activities. Last summer's large and unexpected sewage releases after the fire at the North River treatment plant raised awareness of the issue, and some of the harbor's users developed an interest in citizens' water-quality testing at near-shore locations in order to supplement the information available from government agencies, which is largely collected mid-channel.
Last fall the New York City Water Trail Association and The River Project conducted a pilot program to study the feasibility of such testing and to learn the basic issues involved, and this spring we launched a season-long program of testing at more than 20 current or prospective boat launches. From mid-May to mid-October, volunteers from local boathouses and community groups will be collecting weekly water samples at sites from Yonkers to South Beach on Staten Island. Using EPA-approved kits from IDEXX laboratories, our partners at The River Project are testing the samples for microbes of the genus Enterococcus (“Entero”). Enterococci are commonly found in the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals; their presence in the water is an indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens that could be harmful to human health.
As indicated in our results tables, the EPA has established Enterococcus standards for swimming; no such standards exist for boating. The idea of our program is to create a baseline of data that, when correlated with rain and tide information, can help better inform boaters of likely water quality at their preferred launch sites. Because local boaters and boating groups have the best understanding of local variations in weather, current and topography, and because they are best able to assess the risk of exposure posed by the particular kind of boating that they intend to do, we feel the best approach for us is to present only the results of our testing, plus basic tide and rainfall information, and leave the specific interpretation--and decision-making--to those users and user groups.
NOTE AND DISCLAIMER: The data reflect only the Enterococcus cell count per 100 ml. at the locations sampled, at the times and dates sampled. It’s important to not draw conclusions that are not supported by the data. Many samples, over a wide range of conditions, are needed before reliable patterns and relationships can be identified.
For a spreadsheet listing all our results for the first ten weeks of the season, click here.
For results from the second half of the season, clickhere.
If you'd like to become involved in the Citizens' Water Quality Testing Program, or for more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to our partners at The River Project and LaGuardia Community College, to the Hudson River and Lily Auchincloss Foundations for financial support, and to Riverkeeper for technical advice and inspiration.