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Will Wading in This Stream Make Me Sick?

In 2017 Citizen Science Volunteers collected water samples from streams in Rensselaer County communities. These efforts were a component of the Rensselaer Land Trust’s Hudson River Estuary Grant Project: “Will Wading in This Stream Make Me Sick?“ As part of this project we recruited and trained citizen scientists to collect water samples from 18 sites along five tributaries of the Hudson River for enterococcus levels. A sub-set of sampling determined levels of emergent compounds at sites with high enterococcus levels.

Enterococcus is a fecal-indicating bacterium in which studies conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed to be a very good predictor of illness in all waters (marine and fresh waters. Our study design also included a sub-set of samples that were analyzed for the presence of emergent compounds such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, endocrine disrupters where high levels of enterococcus is found.

We are working to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, and further assist municipalities in identifying specific water quality problems for targeted monitoring and analysis. The data recently collected on enterococcus bacteria levels and emergent compounds found at locations throughout the watershed is intended to increase public awareness of water quality conditions.

RLTl Basin Map large copyStreams that were sampled include the Wynants Kill, Poesten Kill, Mill Creek, Quackenderry, Quacken Kill, and Moordener Kill. The stream study sites are located throughout Rensselaer County in the communities of Troy, Rensselaer, North Greenbush, East Greenbush, Grafton, Schodack, and Castleton-on-Hudson. Data was analyzed by qualified labs and the assessment will be communicated to the general public, municipal decision makers and other stakeholders.

Click on the above sample site map to enlarge or downloaded HERE.

Report Cards for each stream site can be reviewed at the following links:
Wynants Kill Report
Poesten Kill and Quacken Kill Report
Mill Creek Report
Quackenderry Report
Moordener Kill Report

Fact Sheets:
Pet Waste and Water Quaility
Medical Disposal and Water Qulity
Septic Systems and Water Quaility

Because the Rensselaer Land Trust wanted to coordinate results from the watershed with Hudson Riverkeeper’s ongoing survey of enterococcus bacteria throughout the Hudson River Estuary, samples were be analyzed for enterococcus using the same EPA-approved analytical procedure. This procedure produces a statistically-based “most probable number” (MPN) of “colony forming units” (CFUs) per 100 ml of sample water. If the mean of no less than five samples equally spaced over 30 days exceeds 33 CFUs/100mL, the EPA standard for acceptable recreational water is exceeded. If any individual sample from a site is greater than 61 CFUs/100mL the standard is also exceeded.

The results of enterococcus findings are available at

Sampling Photo

Fran Martino, proprietor of River Haggie Outdoors, has coordinated the project to bring stakeholders together to help achieve goals of the New York State Hudson River Estuary Program as it relates to protecting our streams and sustaining water resources. Expected outcomes will be an increased level of awareness and knowledge of community residents and others about water quality conditions that can lead to a reduction of pollutants and improvement in water quality.

Fran has been working with students from The Sage Colleges who will be presenting their capstone projects at the Russell Sage Undergraduate Symposium on April 25, 2018. In collaboration with Dr. Emilly Obuya, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Departments, and Alison Horton Schaeffing, Director of Service-Learning at Sage, students are participating in the course: Introduction to Research Methods which includes a mandatory capstone project where their research findings will be useful in their understanding of their local, national and global environment. The capstone study will also serve as a project-based service learning experience where students are assigned a project that will require them to use diverse skills (writing, interviewing, collaborating, and public speaking) to produce results that address real-world problems and issues involving our immediate community.

New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) provided the grant, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Hudson River Estuary Program (HREP) administers the funding for this project. This grant supports planning for local stewardship of the river environment to help achieve the goals of the 2015-2020 Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda, and aligns with Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) strategies. Partnering organizations involved on this project include Rensselaer County; the Cities of Troy and Rensselaer; Watershed Assessment Associates; United States Geological Survey; Riverkeeper; and Capital District Regional Planning Commission.

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