The environmental org Riverkeeper released a report this week on Hudson River sewage contamination levels -- and the results for this part of the Hudson were... uh... gross.
Riverkeeper's testing found sewage-indicating bacteria levels were above acceptable limits more than 50 percent of the time at both Island Creek/Normans Kill in Glenmont (65 percent of the time) and the Dunn Memorial Bridge in Albany (50 percent). Those two spots were among the top-10 worst of all the spots tested. The data for all the locations tested are posted online -- and table with local data is after the jump.
So, what's causing this problem? The Capital District's combined sewer systems dump untreated sewage into the river when they're over capacity (example: after a heavy rain).
Riverkeeper says the systems release 1.2 billion gallons of untreated sewage and wastewater into the river each year.
The Riverkeeper report explains:
[The Capital District] has 92 CSOs [combined sewer overflows] that dump an estimated 1.2 billion gallons of combined sewage and wastewater into the Hudson each year. That mix is entering a narrower and shallower section of the Hudson River, without the volume and mixing benefits of close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean that NYC enjoys.
Another important difference between Albany and NYC is that the three sewage treatment plants serving the Capital District do not use disinfection. So in the Capital District the rain-triggered CSOs provide a spike of contamination on top of a chronically sewage-laden section of the estuary.
The Clean Water Act requires disinfection at sewage treatment plants (STPs), but by issuing special permits (called "SPDES"), New York State has allowed Albany to stay out of compliance for almost 40 years. The lack of disinfection at the STPs is one reason Albany's water quality in all weather is worse than New York City - though the latter is a giant metropolis with far greater sewage and CSO volumes.
In recent years the New York State DEC finally required the Capital District to develop a Long Term Control Plan for its CSOs. The plan currently under development includes adding seasonal disinfection at the three sewage treatment plants in this region - a step in the right direction for water quality in the Capital District.
Six local municipalities -- Albany, Cohoes, Green Island, Rensselaer, Troy, and Watervliet -- have developed a plan to deal with these sewage overflows. As of this past June, the projected price tag was $110 million. [Troy Record] [TU]
Another issue: the streams and creeks that flow into the Hudson. Riverkeeper found that five tributaries in this area exceeded acceptable limits during wet weather (and three failed during dry weather) -- possibly because of leaking septic systems and sewers, or agricultural sources. Last September, a pumping station in Cohoes failed, leading to more than 27,000 gallons of sewage spilling into a Hudson tributary. [Troy Record]
The full report is available for download, and it's embedded below.
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