New Yorker swims the Hudson River to show it is safe

- Swimming in the Hudson River is unheard of for many. But many have never heard of Ira Gershenhorn.

The 66-year-old Upper West Side resident swims the Hudson several times a week. The volunteer with the New York City Water Trail Association does it to help dispel myths that the Hudson River is unclean.

To that end, he collects water samples at various points along the Hudson, which are then taken to a research lab at Columbia University. A priority is checking for the presence of the Enterococcus microbe.

 "It's an indicator that there is sewage in the water," Ira said. "It's something that the Health Department uses to close down beaches if there is too much enterococcus in the water."

The testing results are posted on the group's website. The data is available to the public and is shared with the EPA and state and local officials, who say that the Hudson is fine.

"This is probably one of the cleaner [bodies of water]," Ira said. "The other ones, not so clean. Newtown Creek, for instance, the East River."

While she wasn't in the water with him this day, Karen Gershenhorn usually is, sharing the same passion for the environment as her husband.

"All of New York is surrounded by water and we love swimming, we love fish, we love nature," Karen said.  "It's really important that people understand that this is a great resource for all of us."

Ira has no plans to stop his water collecting along the Hudson anytime soon. On this day, he checked the water near West 172nd Street and Riverside Drive.

So how was the water?

"Perfect," said Ira, who is one part Aquaman, one part conservationist, and total New Yorker.

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