June 13, 2023
This week the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation hosted public hearings on the proposed rulemaking related to water classifications across New York State. Our friends took to the mic to advocate for free and safe access to the rivers for swimming.
We shared our data and how it makes a strong case for reclassification of waters to swimming with wet weather exemptions. Some talked about optimizing the health benefits for all New Yorkers. Some shared their experiences swimming in the river for triathlons swim events, how special it is, and how it should be something all New Yorkers can safely enjoy. All talked about how swimming in the river is joyous and freeing. And of course our biggest community board cheerleader Wendy just continued to say all she wants in this world is + POOL! 🙂
This is a multi-pronged issue impacting water bodies across the State and DEC is making a lot of decisions across a lot of different water bodies. Why does it matter to us? The waters around Manhattan are currently classified as “I” meaning they have been designated for fishing and boating, not swimming. We have been tracking water quality over the past several years and the waters meet EPA recreational swimming standards regularly. Not all the time, but most of the time. While not the only determinant of water quality, it is widely known that poor water tends to correlate to heavy instances of rain. We believe that with proper process controls and rampant water quality monitoring, the waters around Manhattan could be classified for swimming with what’s called a “wet weather exemption,” meaning when rainfall hits a data-informed threshold, swimming would not be allowed. This would be very similar to what already happens at our existing beaches. For example, you may have seen a swimming advisory or even a beach closure at the Rockaways when water quality exceeds certain thresholds defined as safe (Brian Lehrer show spoke about this just last week). We believe, and the data strongly supports, that on dry days, when the water quality meets standards, New Yorders could have access in safe, designated areas around Manhattan!
We submitted our 2021 and 2022 water quality data from Pier 35 to DEC to consider as part of its proposed rulemaking in November 2022. In 2021, data at the site met recreational water quality thresholds more frequently than two of the city’s already permitted bathing beaches, according to the 2021 Beach Report. In 2022, data at the site met thresholds for swimming more frequently than six existing bathing beaches and the 30-day geometric mean was better than 11 beaches currently in operation. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is an OpEd I wrote on how we should be using this data.
What we support:
DEC Website on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ie. ANPRM)
Expressed Terms of the ANPRM
Regulatory Impact Statement on the ANPRM
Plus Pool Blog post on its data submission to the ANPRM
Riverkeeper’s Blog post on the ANPRM
Stormwastewar Information Matters Blog post on the ANPRM