Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What Lies Beneath

Timothy O'Connor, on his blog Leptodeareports about the Shortnose Sturgeon, Hudson's own endangered fish.


  1. 1.

    Hudson has some very old, unresolved water quality issues. We're about to compound them with new ones.

    Riverbed mapping shows a deep trough starting at Hudson which, with nary an interruption, continues to deepen for miles downriver. It's the first such trough the deep-water larvae of the Shortnose Sturgeon find on their way south from the spawning grounds. The trough begins at the entrance to North Bay, and into the deep dark benthos pours every heavy contaminant the bay can offer.

    These metals and compounds continue to flow downriver at sturgeon depth, making sturgeon particularly vulnerable to the bioaccumulation of a number of nasty toxins.

    Typical by-products of capped landfills such as North Bay's include enriched metals, which enter the ecosystem through the landfill's several identified seeps.

    The same principle applies to the city's streetwater runoff: "Hydrogenous metal enrichment in solids may occur ... as early as the waste effluent, later in the sewage treatment plant, or ultimately in the river [itself] ..." (source: "Metal Pollution in the Aquatic Environment," Forstner and Wittman, 1979; p. 201).

    Now pour coal tars into the same benthic trough. These 19th c. contaminants continue to seep into the river from the former coal distillation gas works at our waterfront.

    A Department of Commerce study on the Connecticut River found a 95% mortality rate for larval Shortnose Sturgeon following contact with sediment-laden coal tar compounds.

    In the Hudson River, one of the surest places to find larval Shortnose Sturgeon is off the City of Hudson; the trough which begins at North Bay is the Endangered sturgeon's nursery!

  2. 2.

    The city DPW can complain all it wants that metals and hydrocarbons aren't captured by the treatment plant, but the absoluteness of the claim is far from certain. Either way, it's still a problem we can and should address.

    A forward-looking community would be discussing options like electrocoagulation, which allows suspended matter "to form an agglomeration ... an advanced and economical water treatment technology. It effectively removes suspended solids to sub-micrometre levels, breaks emulsions such as oil and grease or latex, and oxidizes and eradicates heavy metals from water without the use of filters or the addition of separation chemicals."


    There are plenty of studies to look at, but the following one from the EPA is pleasing because it dates to a time when state government did a better job regulating our waters. In 1984, the NYS DEC reached an agreement with the City of Hudson which put a condition on the project we're about to implement today. To wit, without a proper hydrology study of the North Bay and an understanding of the bay's assimilative capacity, such a project would never go forward on the basis of federal funds. (Note that the current sewer separation is being financed by HUD.)

    The US EPA from 1983:

    Abstract: "This project assessed the variables influencing the removal of eight metals through combined industrial-municipal treatment plants. The eight metals investigated were: aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, nickel, and zinc. ... The results of this project indicate that the removal of metals in combined industrial-municipal treatment systems is influenced by a number of wastewater and treatment plant operation characteristics. ..."