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2015 Water Quality Monitoring by Sam Wagner

The summer is over and the data is in, and with the exception of a few days the dissolved oxygen in Newtown Creek was above the 3.0 mg/L level suggested for supporting fish life. The most stable spots I encountered were the Apollo Street and Meeker Avenue sites. At these sites the dissolved oxygen rarely fluctuated more than 2-3 mg/L over the course of a week.

The most troubling area I sampled was the Dutch Kills Tributary, which had frequent fluctuations over the course of the summer, creating an unstable environment for aquatic life. Here it wasn’t uncommon to get a reading of under 3 mg/L then a few days later get readings of over 10 mg/L before it crashed again to a sub 3 mg/L level.

While I cannot say for certain why some sites fluctuate more than others I do have a theory. The Apollo Street and Meeker Avenue sites are relatively far from Combined Sewage Overflows (CSO) which would mitigate the algal blooms that cause the boom and bust cycle of dissolved oxygen. These sites are also on the main channel and have a decent flow of water, again lowering the effects of the sewage overflows. The Dutch Kills tributary however has a major Combined Sewage Overflow and relatively little outward flow. Therefore when it rains and a CSO event occurs the sewage, which contains nutrients for algae stays within Dutch Kills. This allows for the algae to thrive, and produce dissolved oxygen leading to a spike. However after a few days without a CSO event the algae run out of the nutrients needed to sustain life. As the algae die their decomposition uses up dissolved oxygen and cause the dissolved oxygen to plummet.

Over the course of the summer I have come to realize just how complex the issues facing Newtown Creek really are. While in an ideal world we could eliminate CSOs altogether the investment required to do so is beyond prohibitive. As long as there are CSOs there will be a need for the community to keep watch over the Creek.

-Sam Wagner, NCA Summer Researcher
September 2015

Additional Resources:
Google Spreadsheet w/ all of Sam’s 2015 Data
Students of All Ages Test the Waters Around Us Waterfront Alliance, August, 2015
Sam Wagner Begins WQ Program NCA, July, 2015
Sam worked with Professor Holly Porter-Morgan at LaGuardia Community College to create this interactive map below. It can also be viewed here.

 

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