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Upper Hudson Gets A Checkup

The upper Hudson can be traced from the Troy Lock and Dam (pictured) to Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks

The upper Hudson River has been given a new health assessment. Environmental group Riverkeeper, which has been patrolling the lower Hudson for decades, only began sampling north of the federal dam in Troy last summer. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chef Lucas Willard has details about the new report, which shows a river mostly healthy for swimming.

From Troy, New York to Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks, Riverkeeper and partners tested water samples for indicators of fecal contamination.

When results were compared with federal water quality standards and other waterways in New York tested by Riverkeeper, the upper Hudson scored the healthiest, according to Riverkeeper’s Dan Shapley.

“What we know about the upper Hudson, it has to be said is based on very few samples to date, but what we see so far is very good water quality in a lot of places. The best of any tributary to the Hudson River Estuary, the upper Hudson being sort of a freshwater input to the Estuary,” said Shapley.

The findings of sampling done last year were presented in Schuylerville in Saratoga County, one of three scheduled presentations Wednesday.

Samples taken in June, August, and October at up to 40 locations were processed by Riverkeeper, SUNY Cobleskill, CUNY Queens, and Columbia University’s Lamon-Doherty Earth Observatory.

17 percent of samples exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Beach Action Value and three locations failed the test multiple times: The Batten Kill, Hoosic River, and Fish Creek. It’s also important to point that all of the limited sampling was done on dry days. Rainy days have a tendency to spike bacteria levels, especially in areas with combined sewer systems or agricultural fields.

The sampling does not looking for PCB contamination, a major concern along the nation’s largest Superfund site.

But why do the sampling? Dan Shapley, again…

“The date, one, it answers fundamental questions that people have about where it’s safe to get in the water and enjoy the river, people want that information, we want to give it to them. Also it helps to build the case for the kinds of investments we just saw in the state budget, $2.5 billion for clean water infrastructure, historic levels of funding. It’s the case that’s made by the data and the people that want clean water to make that possible,” said Shapley.

Riverkeeper looks to expand sampling next year and there were a few interested attendees Wednesday afternoon. Lorraine Merghait Ballard is with the Battenkill Conservancy, a volunteer group that does its own sampling for macro-invertebrates. Although a different focus, it’s another way of determining stream health.

“If there’s bugs in the water, the trout are in the water, the fishermen are happy, the water is clean. It’s that simple.”

Merghait Ballard is hoping to find ways to share data with Riverkeeper.

Jenny Edwards, Children’s Program Coordinator at the Schuylerville Public Library, said she is interested in involving children with the summer reading program in the sampling work.

“I’m thinking our grade school kids. Our grade school and our teen kids that come to the library. I think this would be a great opportunity for them,” said Edwards.

For more information visit: https://www.riverkeeper.org/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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