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June 25, 2001

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

New York City Department of Environmental Protection Announces Results of Annual Harbor Water Quality Survey

Monitoring Shows Continuing Improvement in New York Harbor Waters.

Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the release of DEP's annual Harbor Water Quality survey report which documents, through water quality analyses and other environmental indicators, the continued improvement of New York Harbor waters.

Commissioner Miele said, " In this, the 91st year of the survey, there is clear evidence that New York Harbor's environment remains cleaner and the water quality continues to be better than it has been since the early 1900s. Evidence of this improvement ranges from breeding populations of double-crested cormorants, herons, egrets and water fowl in the Harbor area, to improved populations of benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms in Lower New York Bay. Perhaps the best indication of a cleaner environment to both New York's residents and visitors," continued Commissioner Miele, "is the fact that beach closures have been virtually eliminated and certain shell fishing restrictions off the Rockaway Peninsula and parts of Raritan Bay have been lifted. Much of this improvement is directly related to improvements and enhancements to the City's wastewater collection and treatment systems.

As documented in the report, under average conditions (representing a mix of both dry and wet weather) monitoring data shows fecal coliform bacteria (indicative of wastewater pollution) to have decreased by as much as 98% since 1974, so that water quality now meets New York State "bathing standards" in all open waters of the harbor. Furthermore, sampling data shows that, over the same period of time, significant harbor-wide increases in dissolved oxygen, critical for most aquatic life forms, has also occurred.

Improvements to New York Harbor include:

  • the continued opening of all New York City public beaches since 1992;
  • no closures of public beaches in 2000;
  • the relaxing of state advisories on human consumption of striped bass and the possibility of opening a limited commercial fishery in parts of the Hudson River;
  • the resurgence of aquatic organisms, including game and commonly sought-after fishes; and
  • the recovery of Hudson River shortnose sturgeon, a Federally endangered species, to record breaking numbers.

These improvements are attributed to:

  • the electronic monitoring of 88 sewage pumping stations and 102 sewer regulators;
  • water conservation and sewer monitoring;
  • the virtual elimination of raw wastewater discharges (including illegal discharges) into harbor waters;
  • the three-fold increase in capture of rainfall that enters combined sewers (including trash or litter washed into storm drains);
  • DEP's Grease Education and Enforcement Program;
  • participation in USEPA's Strategic Goals Program; and
  • the reduction of nitrogen loading in Jamaica Bay and the Upper East River/Western Long Island Sound.

The Harbor Survey Program provides the longest documented assessment of the impact of human activities on the City's water environment. By sampling the water at 53 stations and measuring more than a dozen water quality parameters throughout the Harbor, the survey:

  • identifies changes in the environment and ecosystem of New York Harbor;
  • describes long-term water quality trends; and
  • provides a unique data base (dating back to 1909) for scientists, educators and citizens; and
  • enables DEP to do long-range planning and shift resources as needed.

The 2000 New York Harbor Water Quality Regional Summary will be available on DEP's Web site at, or by calling 718/DEP-HELP (337-4357).


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600