Clearwater to Receive EPA Funding for Peekskill Urban Watershed Initiative

Peekskill Residents to Participate in Watershed Assessment and Stewardship Trainings

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has been awarded $24,487 in funding from EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice for the “The Peekskill Urban Watershed Initiative: Advancing Water Quality Protection through Community Engagement and Youth Empowerment”. Through this initiative, Peekskill, NY residents will learn about the potential sources of local water pollution and their impacts on the use of the waters for fishing, swimming, and other recreational uses. Residents will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities and trainings. The urban watershed of the city includes the MacGregory Brook and Dickey Brook basins, as well as a few small unnamed streams and various lakes, ponds, springs, and wetlands.

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’s role in this initiative will be to lead the effort and to coordinate a collaborative, community-based watershed planning committee, which concerned residents are urged to join. Active partners in the initiative include local groups such as Comité Latino and Citizens for Equal Environmental Protection, and agencies such as the City of Peekskill’s Conservation Advisory Council, Planning Department, and Water and Sewer Department.

“Peekskill is committed to protecting all of our natural resources including the streams and brooks that feed the ponds and lakes in our parks” stated Mayor Mary Foster. “It is a pleasure to work with Clearwater on this important initiative and we look forward to offering a unique learning and volunteer opportunity to our youth. Understanding the connection between our streams, brooks, and the Hudson River and learning techniques to keep our waterways healthy and clean will reinforce Peekskill’s ‘Green-Clean’ program.”

The project team will coordinate a series of assessment and research projects to fill in information gaps and create a more complete understanding of the watershed, including a volunteer-led visual assessment (StreamWalk), a research project of the brooks’ historical significance, and a water resource assessment and mapping project to delineate the watershed and merge existing and newly collected data layers. In tandem and working closely with the Peekskill Youth Bureau, Clearwater will pilot a new Urban Watershed Stewardship Program. This program will award six local youth the opportunity to attend trainings and learn and work closely with project partners. In addition, a Peekskill Creek Week event series will be held and include a public forum to present significant findings, a community creek clean-up in two of Peekskill’s waterfront parks, and an educational display and presentation of “lessons learned” at Peekskill’s annual river day festival, “Celebrate Peekskill.”

“This project will allow Peekskill and its residents to learn about the history and health of the city’s brooks and other waterbodies while cultivating a new generation of environmental stewards,” said Carol Capobianco, Chair of Peekskill’s Conservation Advisory Council. “We are grateful for the EPA and Clearwater’s interest in Peekskill’s natural resources and look forward to working with these esteemed groups on the important issue of water protection.”

Residents interested in participating should contact Clearwater Environmental Justice Associate Karla Raimundi at 845-265-8080 x7159, or Karla@Clearwater.org

About the Peekskill Urban Watershed

The MacGregory Brook basin is located entirely in the City of Peekskill and runs through the heart of the City along, and in spots underneath, Central Avenue for much of its length. MacGregory Brook is a Class C Stream, suitable for fish propagation and non-contact activity, and 80% of the land use in the watershed is urbanized. Untreated urban runoff from at least five documented outfalls is likely transporting pollutants such as petroleum products, fertilizers, pesticides, and household and industrial cleaners and solvents into the brook and the Hudson, but specific levels are unknown.

The Dickey Brook basin includes portions of the City of Peekskill, Village of Buchanan, and Town of Cortlandt. The brook originates at the Blue Mountain Reservation then flows into a more urbanized area, passing several industrial sites and the Village of Buchanan’s Sewage Treatment Plant, before entering the Hudson River between the Charles Point Recreation Area and the Indian Point Nuclear Facility. As can be expected, the Dickey Brook is a Class C Stream in this lower urbanized portion and Class B Stream, suitable for recreational contact and not drinking, 1.2 miles from the mouth to headwaters.

According to Riverkeeper’s “How is the Water?” Report, water quality at the Riverfront Green poses a risk to residents 25% of the time due to sewage contamination (unacceptable 4%, possible risk 21%). This analysis is based on Enterococcus levels, which are used as an indicator of sewage contamination, which can contain a host of pathogens, parasites, and viruses. Observational and anecdotal evidence suggests that residents are also using the waterfront and mouth of the MacGregory Brook for swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, and other forms of contact recreation, potentially exposing residents to pathogens from sewage and other toxins from industrial and urban runoff.

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