SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. The Philipse Manor Beach Club was devoid of swimmers Friday even as the temperatures reached a heat index of around 115 degrees.
The club was forced to close off the beach for swimming after the Westchester County Health Department notified them that a wastewater treatment plant in New York City had been leaking sewage into the Hudson River and the river was not safe for swimming because of that.
Beach Club President Burns Patterson said the club decided to close the beach to swimming for the safety of the clubs members, most of whom are families and children.
We didnt have a choice, Patterson said.
Patterson said the club would be monitoring the situation so it could reopen the beach to swimming as soon as possible. Patterson noted that picnicking was still allowed at the beach and that lifeguards would be on duty.
Friday afternoon, the County Department of Health lifted restrictions on swimming, kayaking and windsurfing for parts of the Hudson River from Ossining north.
"These areas are outside the area affected by the wastewater being released," county health officials said.
For areas south of Ossining, county health officials recommended no direct contact with Hudson River waters but did not restrict boating. For those who fish, health officials said they should practice "catch and release" for all points south of Ossining.
Sleepy Hollow was still under the restrictions on Friday afternoon. The village took time to alert its notification subscribers about the restrictions through emails. Sleepy Hollow has several river access points: Horans Landing, Kingsland Point Park and the Philipse Manor Beach Club. Most were empty Friday afternoon.
Millions of gallons of untreated sewage began dumping into the Hudson River on Wednesday at around 5:15 p.m. after a fire started in the North River wastewater treatment plant on West 135th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan from one of the plant's pump engines.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection officials said its department is working as quickly as possible to get the plant running again but "the estimated time to bring the plant back online is undetermined."
According to Paul Gallay, the president of Riverkeeper, an Ossining-based environmental watchdog organization that regularly tests the Hudson waters for levels of bacteria, swimming in waters containing unsafe levels of bacteria could lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or infection of wounds.
Riverkeeper boat captain John Lipscomb sampled waters along the Hudson from the Tappan Zee Bridge down to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan Thursday. The organization was awaiting test results, which were expected Friday afternoon, said Riverkeeper spokeswoman Tina Posterli
"It's pretty significant. Our boat captain said the test results are probably going to show a picture of what this river was like four decades ago at a time when corporate polluters weren't held accountable," Posterli said.
Patterson said he understands that not all accidents can be prevented, but he said not enough was being done to address the sewage issue.
Patterson grew up near the Hudson and says he can remember when he was a child that the river was never safe to swim in. Today its a great success story but theres still much to be done, he said, such as improving infrastructure along the river. Although it wouldnt be cheap, Patterson said the investments would, in the end, be a huge payoff.
If hes hopeful of anything, Patterson said, maybe this leak would draw attention to the fact that the Hudson River still needs to be protected from environmental hazards.
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