|Why We Swim in the Hudson River—
Balancing Risks with Knowledge
|Riverkeeper science partner Dr. Gregory O’Mullan takes a dip in the Hudson.
Recent news has focused attention on sewage contamination in the Hudson River, but the alarming headlines about a new study of antibiotic-resistant bacteria should not make us turn our backs on the Hudson.
The study, by CUNY Queens College and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in collaboration with Riverkeeper, only adds another reason that you should be well informed before enjoying river activities, using available resources like Riverkeeper’s water quality data to help you make choices about where and when to enter the water. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria were found where raw sewage is found—and Riverkeeper’s data, along with some common sense, can help you avoid contact with potentially harmful pathogens found in sewage.
“Ultimately we hope to rid the river of sewage pollution entirely, but we aren’t there yet. The cold, hard fact is the Hudson still suffers from sewage pollution, and until that changes you need to be educated before entering the water. But that doesn’t mean that you should stop recreating,” writes John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper patrol boat captain and Water Quality Program Director, in a new blog post, Swim in the Hudson River—But Swim Smart. “You wouldn’t avoid swimming on sunny days because some clouds, somewhere, produce lightning. You wouldn’t avoid swimming in a quiet sandy cove because some other water has treacherous rocks and currents. Neither should you avoid swimming where and when water tends to be free of pollution, just because pollution exists at other times or locations.”
An author of the new study, and longtime Riverkeeper science partner, Dr. Gregory O’Mullan, agreed. “Having studied the river for a number of years there are places (near CSO or wastewater treatment outfalls) and times (especially following rain) that I would avoid contact,” he said in a Q&A on the study. “But there are also lots of places where I would swim and where I have swum. Last week I swam in the river near Saugerties. It was a hot day and it felt great to get into the river.”
Riverkeeper advocates for widespread and frequent testing of the water, timely public notification of sewage discharges, forecasting to inform the public about future water conditions—and ultimately the infrastructure improvements necessary to rid our waterways of sewage altogether.
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