Monday, February 27, 2012

Beacon Harbor Sewage Discharge - Case Closed

In September, a watchdog reported to us that sewage was flowing from a pipe in the northeastern corner of Beacon Harbor in Beacon's waterfront park.

Discharge Source and Duration

A member of the public discovered the discharge on September 17th, 2011. Riverkeeper began collecting water samples at the site on September 18th. 
The water was flowing out of this spillway and into the river
On 11/17/11, two months after the initial discharge report, inspection by Riverkeeper showed that the sewage discharge had finally ended.

Response to Discharge
Riverkeeper reported the discharge to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) through its 24-hour dispatch number on September 18th after visiting the site and confirming the citizen watchdog report. We also notified the Beacon Harbormaster, Beacon’s Mayor and Beacon Pool staff at that time.

Boat Captain John Lipscomb returned to the harbor on Friday the 23rd, found the discharge was still flowing and collected another water sample. This sample, taken directly at the discharge pipe, hit the limits of our onboard lab at >24,196 Enterococcus per 100/ml. That is at least 397 times greater than the EPA guideline for acceptable water quality which is 61 Entero per 100/ml in fresh water. Riverkeeper reported our water quality finding to DEC on September 24th. DEC reported it to the Beacon Water and Sewer Superintendent.

In the absence of any public notification of the spill, Riverkeeper notified the press and the public on the morning of September 28th, advising people to avoid contact with the water in the area of spill. The Mayor of Beacon issued the first official public notification of the spill that evening in the form of a message posted on the city website.

Riverkeeper collected another water quality sample on September 30th. It was also >24,196 Entero per 100/ml. The Mayor of Beacon and NYS DEC called for the Dutchess County Department of Health to test the discharge water on September 29th. Results confirmed sewage contamination but microbial counts were not released to the public.

Riverkeeper conducted additional periodic sampling (including two rounds of samples processed by a certified lab in Newburgh) through 10/12/11. All samples confirmed an ongoing sewage discharge. On 11/17 we returned to collect another sample and found that the sewage flow had stopped. Since then, the site has been monitored for Riverkeeper by two local resident watchdogs.

The last site check was in early this month after heavy rain. There was no sewage discharge at that time, so it appears that the problem has been repaired. However, the actual cause of the sewage release has not been disclosed by Beacon officials to either DEC or Riverkeeper. Because of this, Riverkeeper watchdogs will continue to periodically check this pipe.

When public notification is not required by law it usually does not happen. Dutchess County did not issue any public notification about the ongoing sewage discharge in Beacon Harbor even though it took place at a heavily used public access point during warm weather and during the boating season.

When the public keep an eye out for problems WE CAN SUCCEED. Without the help of the public, this discharge might not have been detected and repaired. So THANK YOU!

Read More

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Follow-Up on Watchdog Report: Barge Discharge

Some weeks ago we received a watchdog email regarding a discharging barge off of Yonkers.

We contacted the marine unit at the DEC, who followed up with the barge operator and got the following response from one of their engineers:
"It would appear, from the pictures, that ballast water is being discharged from the vessel. The area of the barge where the apparent discharge is taking place is the area where the ballast tank sea valve is located. If you can enlarge the area directly above, on deck, you will see the port ballast pump. 
"The vessel is double hulled and the water that is apparently being discharged is clean, segregated ballast water. From the properties of the photos, they appear to have been taken on January 8, 2012. Based on that, we believe the ballast water was originally taken on the barge several days earlier at Bay ridge anchorage, New York harbor." 
It's always better to be safe than sorry, so we very much appreciate that the watchdog took the time to contact us so that we could look into this issue.
As always, we encourage members of the public to act as citizen watchdogs for Riverkeeper. If you observe what you think may be illegal water pollution, please take photos and call us at 1-800-21-RIVER. You can also follow these instructions to learn how to best report pollution to us!

Read the original story here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Newtown Creek Video

This video shows the Newtown Creek in 2006, at the time when Riverkeeper and our partners in the community were investigating ExxonMobil's Greenpoint oil spill, one of the largest in U.S. history, and other pollution.

(Video via Environmental Countdown)
Today, the creek has a brighter future, thanks to the November 2010 settlement with ExxonMobil that requires the company to clean up its pollution in the soil, water and air, and to spend nearly $20 million on environmental benefit projects in the area. Riverkeeper continues to investigate pollution, ranging from sewage to oil; and we will continue to bring polluters to justice until the creek is restored.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Testing the Water on the Hudson’s Largest Tributary

Many people launch their boats at the Rondout Creek at Kingston, and many enjoy the swimming beach on the Hudson River at Kingston Point, but few know that more than half the water samples Riverkeeper has taken at the Rondout public dock, and nearly one-quarter of those taken at the beach indicate sewage levels that are unsafe for swimming.

Soon, that could change, as Riverkeeper helps local citizens organize to test their water and call for changes that will improve local water quality.

Nearly 30 people concerned about the quality of the Hudson River and tributaries in the Kingston area turned out to hear Riverkeeper’s Patrol Boat Capt. John Lipscomb and Water Quality Consultant Tracy Brown present “How’s the Water: A Presentation and Call for Volunteers,” Feb. 16 at the Town of Esopus Library, a stone’s throw from the confluence of the Rondout and the Hudson.

Attendees heard about lessons learned from Riverkeeper’s 6-year (and counting) water-quality study. They learned about sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and combined sewage overflows (CSOs) that in many Hudson River communities allow untreated raw sewage to flow directly into waterways when rainwater overloads sewer pipes. They learned that only four points on the Hudson River – public beaches in Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland and Westchester counties – are tested for sewage contamination, that half of those points are tested infrequently, and that even at those designated beaches the public isn’t always warned to avoid the water when conditions are unsafe. They learned that New York defines water-quality failures only based on the average of multiple tests, not a single test on a day when water quality is unsafe – and that the state budget for testing sewage in our waterways is zero, a fact that one attendee called “appalling.”

Most importantly, they learned that the Rondout Creek, the largest tributary to the tidal Hudson, is like many tributaries on the Hudson, often contaminated with sewage. While nearly half of Riverkeeper’s samples, taken monthly during boating season over four years, at the public dock and the nearby sewage treatment plant outfall, failed safe-swimming guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency, one-third of samples taken at the Eddyville dam, upstream of both the city of Kingston and the sewage treatment plant also failed. In other words, the sewage treatment plant outfall or the CSOs in Kingston aren’t the only, or necessarily the major source of pollution. That general failure rate is common to the Hudson River’s tributaries, and represents one of the surprising findings of Riverkeeper’s study to date.

That finding is also why Riverkeeper is working with the public to test the water upstream on five tributaries–-the Pocantico in Westchester County, the Sparkill in Rockland, the Esopus in Ulster, the Catskill in Greene and the Stockport in Columbia.

This spring, Riverkeeper hopes to add the Rondout Creek and Wallkill River, which meet upstream of the Eddyville Dam on the Rondout in Kingston, to the list of volunteer-led water-quality monitoring efforts. A grant from the UPS Foundation is making the effort possible. More than 20 Ulster and Orange County residents have expressed interest in volunteering. As the largest tributary in the tidal part of the Hudson, the Wallkill and Rondout together drain much of Ulster and Orange counties. The volunteer effort represents geographic and logistic challenges that Riverkeeper and its local partners will have to meet together. But the findings could – as they have on other tributaries – lead to public awareness and public investment in the fixes necessary to stop the flow of raw sewage into the Hudson and its tributaries

For information about volunteering, contact Dan Shapley at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Non-Point Source Pollution

You’ve heard people say that the River has suffered “death by a thousand cuts.”  Here is what one looks like.

I was in NYC a while back and there was a stream of water with fuel or oil in it running down alongside the curb into a storm drain. Source unknown.

Imagine all the fuel and oil leaks from vehicles and machinery all across the nation. I once read that each year in the US, fuel from non point source spills like this one equal the 11 million gallon EXXON Valdez spill in 1989.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Irene Debris

On Jan 25th I was checking an ongoing fuel spill with boat program colleagues Rob Friedman and Tracy Brown. We found this motor box on the beach in Upper Nyack. This type of motor cover is typical on 20 to 30 foot open runabouts.  My guess is that it’s debris from one of the boats lost to ‘Irene’ last summer. I imagine we’ll be finding debris from that storm stranded on the shoreline for years to come.