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Research: Citizens Water Quality Testing

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For 20 weeks each year starting in May, volunteers from local boathouses and community groups collect weekly water samples at boat launches and docks from Yonkers to Jamaica Bay. Using EPA-approved kits from IDEXX laboratories, The River Project tests the samples for microbes of the genus Enterococcus (“Entero”). Enterococci are commonly found in the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals; their presence in the water is an indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens that could be harmful to human health. This is the same bacteria that the NYC Department of Health tests for at the city's bathing beaches.

The NYC Water Trail Association will publish test results here every Friday evening through October 3. The idea is to create a baseline of data that, when correlated with rainfall, wind and tide information, can help better inform boaters of likely water quality at nearby launch sites. Local boaters and boating groups have a nuanced understanding of local variations in weather, current and topography, and thus are best able to assess the risk of exposure posed by the particular kind of boating that they intend to do. We at NYC Water Trail Association and The River Project therefore feel we should present only the results of our testing, plus basic tide and rainfall information, and leave the specific interpretation and decision-making to them.