You wanna swim where?
If you are looking for advice on whether it is safe to swim in the Hudson River, the recent report by Riverkeeper and Columbia University might not fully answer your questions. The report, based on data from river water samples tested since 2006, shows that on some days the water is clean, but on other days it is far less so. Similarly, some locations along the river are clean, others – not so much. The report doesn’t exactly provide an easy road map (or swimmer’s map) either, since the bacteria levels in the river change from day to day at any given spot, and the cleanest spots are routinely the least swimmable, those found in the middle of the river, not at its shoreline.
Nonetheless, the information gathered by the scientists from Riverkeeper and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University at 67 sites from Manhattan to Troy is the most up-to-date information you will find. The data, including levels of bacteria that are indicative of sewage, will be recorded monthly on the Riverkeeper Web site along with easy-to-read color-coded levels (green is acceptable, red is unacceptable, yellow means a possible risk), making it more current and more user-friendly than any water-quality information that was available before.
In general, the data showed that water quality conditions were acceptable in the middle of the river during dry weather. But more than three-quarters of the sites exceeded safe limits for swimming, often after it rained. Several areas, including the Piermont Pier and Sparkill Creek in Orangetown, and the mouth of the Saw Mill River where it empties into the Hudson in Yonkers, had chronically poor water quality.
The goal of the Swimmable River project isn’t just to direct swimmers to the cleanest beaches, however. Its long-term goal is to gather data that can be used to advocate for better water quality policies – such as improvements in wastewater treatment plants that too often fail and dump raw untreated sewage into the river, and improvements in stormwater systems that channel contaminated runoff into the river with every heavy rainfall. To that end, the more data that can be gathered, the better.
Swimming with the fish . . . and plenty of other stuff!