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May 20, 1999

Contact: Charles Sturcken, Cathy DelliCarpini 718-595-6600

DEP Issues 1998 Harbor Water Quality Survey Report

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 survey report which documents, through water quality analyses and other environmental indicators, the continued improvement of New York Harbor waters. Commissioner Miele stated, "In this the 89th year of the survey, there is clear evidence that New York Harbor's environment is cleaner and water quality better than it has been since the turn of the century." Evidence of this improvement ranges from breeding populations of peregrine falcons and other water fowl in the Harbor area, to improved benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms in Lower New York Bay.

Commissioner Miele added, "Perhaps the best indication of a cleaner environment to both New York's residents and visitors 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. As our recent Harbor Survey Report notes, 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 dry weather conditions (i.e. without the overflow of rain water and sewage associated with severe storms) monitoring data shows fecal coliform bacteria (indicative of wastewater pollution) to have decreased nearly two orders of magnitude from 1974 to present. 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 and the reduction in frequency and duration of wet weather swimming advisories;
  • the relaxing of state advisories on human consumption of striped bass in parts of the Hudson River;
  • the resurgence of aquatic organisms;
  • and, the recovery of Hudson River shortnose sturgeon to record breaking numbers.

These improvements are attributed to:

  • the virtual elimination of raw wastewater discharges (including illegal discharges) into the City's more than 6,000 miles of sewer mains;
  • the increased capture of rainfall that enters the sewer system (including trash or litter washed into storm drains);
  • and, the reduction of toxic loadings to the waste stream through DEP's pollution prevention and industrial pre-treatment efforts.

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.

The full 1998 Harbor Water Quality Survey Report and an executive summary will be available on DEP's Web site at www.ci.nyc.ny.us/dep, or by calling 718/DEP-HELP (337-4357).


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