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EPA, New York State and Riverkeeper Announce End to Boat Sewage Discharges to Hudson River

Release Date: 10/09/2003
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(#03119) New York, N.Y. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny, together with New York Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Deputy Commissioner Lynette Stark, and Hudson Riverkeeper and Executive Director Alex Matthiessen today announced that EPA has approved a request by the State of New York to establish a 153-mile "No Discharge Zone" in the Hudson River. From the Battery in New York City to the Troy Dam, boats will be prohibited from releasing treated or untreated sewage to one of the nation's most well-known and ecologically significant water bodies. The restriction will end what had been a source of bacterial and chemical contamination in the River, and is another way EPA and New York State are working together to protect and restore the Hudson. The announcement took place at Hudson River Park's new Pier 45 located near Christopher Street in Manhattan.

"Today, we have taken a important step to improve the Hudson's waters for the New Yorkers that enjoy its beauty and for the thousands of species of wildlife that rely upon it," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "Maintaining a vibrant marine habitat in one of the most densely populated corridors in the nation can be a challenge. But by making a portion of the Hudson a No Discharge Zone, we are helping to do just that. We applaud the state of NewYork for applying for this designation, and look to seeing its benefits."

"The Hudson River has always been a national treasure, serving as a vibrant economic, recreational and cultural resource for local communities and the entire State," Governor Pataki said. "By reducing the discharge of harmful wastes into the river, we can protect the health of this historic waterway and expand opportunities for all New Yorkers to enjoy this truly magnificent resource. We are pleased to once again partner with the federal government to clean up this American Heritage River."

Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels said, "The Hudson River is being transformed into a cleaner, healthier river, which is a testament to the efforts of Governor Pataki, EPA and numerous other partners and advocates. The designation of this No Discharge Area will produce significant results, helping us realize the vast potential of the Hudson River."

"The Hudson River is one of the most important and historic waterways in the United States, and its continued revitalization has been one of Governor Pataki's highest priorities," said DEC Commissioner Erin M. Crotty. Under the Governor's leadership, the Hudson has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence. The No Discharge Zone is the latest step as we move toward returning the river to its full environmental, cultural and economic potential. I thank EPA for working with us to achieve this goal."

"Thanks to the cooperation between EPA, Governor Pataki, and Riverkeeper, we take another critical step in the remarkable recovery of the Hudson River," said Alex Matthiessen, Hudson Riverkeeper and Executive Director. "Extending the No Discharge Zone from 60 miles to the entire estuary will help protect human health and water quality from New York City to Albany and beyond. This law recognizes that it is unacceptable to dump human waste and chemicals from marine toilets into our American Heritage River."

In 1998, Congress designated the Hudson River one of only 14 National Heritage Rivers. It originates in the Adirondack Mountains at Lake Tear of the Clouds, and flows 300 miles through seven locks, over fifteen dams and three waterfalls before reaching the New York/New Jersey Harbor area. The Hudson provides an important recreational outlet and fishery for the people of New York and, at its lower portion, New Jersey, and is essential to barge transportation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.

Boat sewage in waterbodies like the Hudson River can contribute to the overall degradation of marine habitats. The 81,000 acres of tidal waters and wetlands lining the Hudson from the Battery to Troy will be the prime beneficiaries of the No Discharge Zone. Boat sewage contains potentially harmful bacteria and chemical additives like formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine, which may, particularly in poorly flushed areas like wetlands, degrade water quality and harm wildlife habitats. They may also negatively impact recreational uses of the river.

"This is a giant step in the process of setting up safeguards to help maintain the cleanliness the Hudson River." said Robert Balachandran, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. "Over two-thirds of the Hudson River Park is water, providing recreation for its patrons and habitation for all sorts of marine life all of which will benefit greatly from this measure."

In deciding whether to approve a state's request for a No Discharge Zone, EPA must determine whether enough pump-out facilities are available to boats in the area under consideration. Thirty-five pump-out facilities exist along or around the 153-mile stretch of the Hudson at marinas, yacht clubs, industrial facilities and other locations. EPA has found this number to be sufficient for the 35,000 vessels that sail the Hudson from the Battery to Troy. Many of the small number of large commercial vessels (greater than 225 feet in length or 20 feet in draft) that sail the Hudson are equipped with on-board sanitation devices that do not have holding tanks and allow sewage, once treated, to simply "flow-through." Because of the time and cost necessary to retrofit these large vessels with holding tanks, EPA has given these vessels one year to comply with the No Discharge Zone requirements.

The No Discharge Zone will be enforced by state police, New York State DEC police, New York State Department of Parks police, county sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, local police officers, harbormasters and bay constables.

A formal announcement of the Hudson River No Discharge Zone will appear in the Federal Register within the next several days. Once it is published, the restriction will be formally put into effect.