Riverkeeper studying Hudson from Adirondacks to New York Harbor

MECHANICVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — After nearly a decade of pollution patrols that have spurred sewage cleanup efforts on the Hudson River from the Albany area to New York Harbor, the environmental group Riverkeeper is expanding its water quality testing program to the river's source high in the Adirondack Mountains.

"We've seen that citizen patrols and citizen science have had wonderful outcomes on the Hudson estuary and now the Mohawk River, the Hudson's largest tributary," John Lipscomb, captain of Riverkeeper's patrol boat, said Tuesday during a water sampling tour north of Albany. "We're eager to try to do the same thing on the upper Hudson. The outcome will depend on what we find in terms of water quality and local partners."

Lipscomb has been doing monthly testing for sewage-related bacteria on the tidal portion of the Hudson from Troy south to the Atlantic since 2008. The data published on Riverkeeper's website allows people to see where the river is safe for swimming and where sewage pollution is frequently found.

The work has also helped communities and local citizens' groups take an active role in protecting and restoring their waterfronts. The work has also driven state regulatory action and investment in local clean water projects.

On Tuesday, Riverkeeper and volunteers from Jarrett Engineers, a water infrastructure firm in Glens Falls, collected samples from the Hudson from Troy north to Newcomb in the central Adirondacks. The samples will be tested in Riverkeeper's portable lab for enterococcus bacteria, an indicator of sewage pollution.

Over the weekend, Queens College scientist Gregory O'Mullan and Andrew Juhl of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who have been collaborating on Hudson River water quality studies for 10 years, will climb Mount Marcy, the state's highest peak, to collect water samples from tiny Lake Tear of the Clouds, the Hudson's source.

"This will establish a baseline for the pristine natural system as removed from human influence as we can imagine the Hudson River being," O'Mullan said. The information will be useful in scientific studies to provide a basis for comparison to what is found in places where sewers overflow, he said.

Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper's water quality program manager, said the overriding goal is to engage communities throughout the Hudson watershed in monitoring and protecting the river.