East River Water Quality
LIC Kayakers Call For DEP Water Quality Investigation on the East River Affecting Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx & Manhattan
September 17, 2012 / East River Water Quality & Health Issues NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC.
I spoke with Victoria Olson, the LIC Boathouse Chairperson, and Ted Gruber, Chairman Emeritus about the LIC Boathouse East River kayaking season. As you can see in the photo, they were plenty busy having averaged about 200 people each summer weekend, over about a four to five hour afternoon period, during which they host free kyaking along the East River waterfront off Hallets Cove in LIC / Astoria in Queens.
As it turns out, the LIC Boathouse has identified a possible water quality issue, which it believes needs public awareness and support, in order for the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] to take the appropriate action required to investigate and remedy what appears to be either an ongoing and possibly growing pollution problem.
Click here to read more about free kayaking along the East River in Queens and the ongoing / emerging sewage / bacteria / water quality problem along the East River in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan.
East River Water Quality
LIC Kayakers Call For DEP Water Quality Investigation on the East River Affecting Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx & Manhattan
September 17, 2012 / East River Water Quality & Health Issues NYC / Gotham Buzz NYC. Continued.
Victoria felt some urgency to put some pressure on the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] to investigate the high bacteria counts found at Hallets Cove where the LIC Boathouse launches about 20 kayaks and two canoes on most weekends from mid spring to mid fall. Victoria Olson, Chairperson of the LIC Boathouse, is shown at Hallets Cove in the photo to your right.
Hallets Cove Testing Shows Heightened Bacteria Counts in the East River
Victoria informed me that the bacteria counts found at Hallets Cove over the summer of 2012 were higher than could be explained by rainfall runoffs or CSO [Combined Sewage Overflows] discharges based on Citizens Water Quality Testing done by a consortium of local groups [see below]. Several times over the summer the LIC Boathouse cancelled its kyaking program because of the high enterococcus colonies found in water samples.
High enterococcus counts indicate high levels of human waste and make the water unsafe for swimming. And while the LIC Boathouse is running a boating - not a swimming - operation, people using the kyaks and canoes do occasionally have contact with the water which is why they cancelled them.
The LIC Boathouse has complained of this situation to the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] and has started an effort to get them to investigate the bacteria counts in the East River waterway off Hallets Cove [see below].
NYC Water Quality - Kayakers As First Responders
In speaking to Victoria, Ted and Jerry [visiting kayaker from Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club]; I began to see these water enthusiasts are, in essence, NYC waterways first responders. Victoria reminded me about the North River Waste Water Treatment Plant spill in July of 2011.
NYC North River Water Treatment Plant Sewage Spill 2011
In July of 2011, a fire broke out at the North River Water Treatment Plant in Manhattan along the Hudson River, because something happened with one of the plant pumps. Over the course of the ensuing days, millions of gallons of untreated waste water were discharged into the Hudson River.
Kayakers along the west side [who launch at Pier 66 near 27th Street & near the boat basin at 72nd Streets in Manhattan] noticed an unusual amount of sewage in the Hudson River and notified the media and NYC officials. In time the NYC government stopped the spill, but not before they had to discourage swimming at beaches in Staten Island and Brooklyn.
Citizens Water Quality Testing - NYC Water Quality Monitors
Following the North River Water Treatment plant spill; Victoria informed me that kayakers, environmentalists and scientists joined forces to begin weekly water quality testing in and around NYC waterways - most notably near boating sights along the 43 NYC Water Trails [see map below]. The three groups [NYC Water Trails Association / River Project NYC / River Keeper] began testing in May of 2012 and have been doing so ever since.
The results of their Hallets Cove testing shows that the enterococcus levels are at levels deemed unacceptable for swimming, which is why they are seeking your help in investigating where the source of pollution is coming from and to stop it before it gets worse. It's worth noting that from the NYC DEP's point of view, Hallets Cove is viewed as a boating location, not a swimming location, and therefore the NYC DEP water quality standards for the area are targeted toward boating use.
It's also worth noting that these organizations are all non-profits, and as such, can always benefit from donations made to help keep NYC water safe.
NYC Department of Environmental Protection - DEP Response On Hallets Cove
We contacted the NYC DEP press office to inquire about this situation. The DEP spokesperson said that NYC waterways quality is better than it has been in the past century, while acknowledging that in and around NYC it still wasn't suitable for swimming.
As for the situation at Hallets Cove, the spokesperson said that the NYC DEP and the NYC Department of Health collaborate in the monitoring the safety of NYC water quality so that they can keep the public informed regarding water quality. They have testing sites around NYC where they take samples on a daily basis. On some days, due to weather conditions and CSO runoff, water quality isn't safe.
The spokesperson provided me with the DEP water testing map, showing the nearest site to Hallets Cove is E14. Apparently the test results from that site are within the NYC DEP monitoring ranges for DO, Fecal, Enterococcus and transparency tests as of the last test date which was conducted on September 4, 2012. As you can see on the map, there are only two water quality testing sites on the East River and neither is very near Hallets Cove which lies between them [red dot is our marker for Hallets Cove - not a water testing site]. And, the spokesperson noted, that Hallets Cove is a designated boating - not swimming - location and as is subject to different standards than for swimming locations.
As mentioend above, Hallets Cove is one of the 43 water trail sites and hence is tested by the organization that started independently monitoring water quality in May 2012.
You Can Help LIC Boathouse by Contacting the Department of Environmental Protection
The LIC Boathouse wants you, the public to help them get the DEP to test and investigate the source of East River pollution found in Hallets Cove, by sending a letter to the Commissioner of the DEP either via U.S. Mail or cut & paste into the DEP website.
Click here to go to the LIC Boathouse website to help address a water quality issue along the East River in Queens.
The report below chronicles some history of water quality in NYC, New Yorkers' environmental activism, the Water Trails organization, tides along the East River and more on free kayaking along the East River via the LIC Boathouse. Enjoy.
History of Environmental Activism NYS & Water Quality East River NYC
History Of Water Quality Issues in Queens, Manhattan & NYC
NYC water ways have suffered an incredible amount of environmental abuse over the past couple of centuries. Earlier this year we reported on the Newton Creek - a waterway which is finally being cleaned up at the public's expense - after 150 years of pollution by subsidiaries of several major oil companies and numerous other private enterprises.
In the photo to your right you can see what appears to be gasoline in Newtown Creek in a photo taken in May 2012. Click here to read our report on the Newtown Creek clean up in Brooklyn and Queens.
Water Quality in NYC Waterways - East River, Newtown Creek & Hudson River
Environmental abuse of NYC waterways extends well beyond Newtown Creek to the Hudson and East Rivers and the NYC harbor. For too long companies have privately profited by saving on the costs of proper waste disposal equipment and processes, and dumped their untreated wastes directly into the Hudson and East Rivers. The NYC municipal government has done the same, and up through the 1970's had sent all of the city's untreated sewage into its waterways.
New York Water Quality - NYS Love Canal Becomes 1st Superfund Clean Up
Environmental activism began to emerge in the 1960's. By the 1970's new groups began to form to create environmental awareness and activism as a first step in addressing environmental issues. The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] was founded in 1970 [during the Nixon Administration], and Greenpeace was founded in 1971 in Vancouver, Canada.
In 1980 the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act was signed into law by President Carter. This act provided the EPA with the power to clean up environmentally toxic sites. The Love Canal, near Niagra Falls / Buffalo, New York became the first Superfund site. Toxic chemicals dumped into the ground by private companies had seeped into the neighborhood water supply and created health issues for local residents.
Environmental Activism NYS - The Adirondacks & The Roosevelts
New York has long been one of the leading states in terms of environmental activism in the U.S. For example in 1890 Governor David B. Hill first proposed the creation of Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. The bill was signed into law by his successor Governor Roswell P. Flower.
President Theodore Roosevelt, [also a New York State Governor] was an early environmental activist, who in 1906 signed the Antiquities Act which gave the federal government the power to preserve and protect lands and objects of historical or scientific interest as national monuments. He used the act to preserve large sections of the Grand Canyon by designating it a national monument, although it wasn't until later that the Grand Canyon was designated a national park. Theodore Roosevelt also designated 5 National Parks, 150 National Forests, 51 Bird Reservations, 4 Wild Game Preserves, 18 National Monuments and more. President Franklin Roosevelt [also a New York State Governor] continued his cousin's work by creating more parks during his terms in office.
In the photo above you can see LIC Boathouse kayakers at Hallets Cove just north of Socrates Sculpture Park in LIC / Astoria. The kayaking season generally begins in May and ends in October. See the Queens Events section of this site for boating dates in times [sports].
NYC Water Trail Association - Water Trail Sites
I spoke to Jerry who calls himself the Old Buzzard. He had come from the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club, leading a kayaking expedition around Manhattan. He had stopped at the Hallets Cove Beach for a break while waiting for the tides to change, so that he could row with the tide, rather than against it.
Hallets Cove is one of 41 designated water trail sites by NYC Water Trails organization. There are nine designated water trail launching sites in Queens, ten in Brooklyn, nine in Manhattan, seven in the Bronx and six in Staten Island.
In the graphic to your left is an NYC Parks Department map of water trails. Click this link to visit the website, support or become involved in NYC Water Trails.
East River / Hudson River: Ebbs & Flows Every Six Hours
Jerry explained to me about the ebb and flow of the East River tides. The timing of the tide ebbs and flows varies with the lunar rotations. There are two tides and two ebbs daily - in twelve hour cycles. That means that every six hours either the tide comes in or the tide flows out.
Jerry [pictured in photo to left] went on to explain the unusual nature of the East River tides, which is directly affected by the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. What happens is that when the tide comes in, the Hudson River is pushed north and water comes up through the Harlem River, which circles down [going south] into the East River which is actually a canal. Hence the East River can run south when the tide comes in, while the Hudson River is flowing north.
Jerry seemed like an old sea captain. He had a book entitled Eldridge's Tide & Pilot Book of 2012, which he said provided all of the tides by six hour cycle for the East River and Hudson River for 2012. He also presented me with a copy of a map he had [not sure where from], which showed when the tides of the Hudson and East Rivers flowed north and south. In the photo to your left is the tides map shown to me by Jerry the Old Buzzard of the Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club.
LIC Boathouse - Free Kayaking On The East River
The LIC Boathouse kayaking along the East has had an impeccable record of no accidents this year [and as far as I know - most years]. They require an insurance waiver, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The LIC Boathouse requests a donation, and most folks donate about $5 for what turns out to be an afternoon of fun along the beach and on the water.
Click here to view the LIC Boathouse business listing with contains contact info, a map of the Hallets Cove launch site and a link to their website. And click here to view a prior report on the LIC Boathouse and kyaking along the East River in Queens.
Lastly, Victoria and Ted [see Ted in photo above] reminded me that LIC Boathouse is run by volunteers. The volunteers take the boats from a boathouse in LIC up to Hallets Cove and they sign in, outfit and supervise the kyakers on the East River. Volunteers can contact them using the contact info contained in the links above.
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