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What You Can Do to Protect the Hudson River Estuary

riverfront cleanup in Beacon NY

Pollution problems facing the Hudson River and its tributaries today are quite different from those of the past. Discharges from industry and waster water treatment facilities have been reduced, but non-point source pollution, such as stormwater runoff, remains a concern. Contaminated runoff from individual homes, farms and communities has put pressure on aquatic habitats, protected species, and overall water quality of the Hudson estuary and local streams.

Make a commitment to be part of the solution. Here's how you can make a difference:

In your home

  • Be a water saver! Every drop you save means more water for fish, wildlife, plants, and you. Be sure to fix leaks in and around your home.
  • Naturalize your yard. Plant rain gardens and native vegetation when landscaping your property to minimize soil erosion, provide habitat for native birds, and help keep water clean. Reduce the use of herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers on your lawn.
  • Promote vegetated buffers along streams. Lay off the lawn mower and preserve or replant streamside trees and shrubs.
  • rain garden
  • Check your septic system and underground storage tanks (oil) regularly. This could potentially save you from a costly clean-up, and it will also prevent harmful bacteria and volatile compounds from entering your drinking water.
  • Recycle used motor oil. Take it to your local gas station. Motor oil is classified as a hazardous waste, and its destructive impact on wildlife can easily be avoided though proper disposal.
  • Properly dispose of pharmaceuticals and household hazardous waste. Rather than flush them away, dispose of cleansers, beauty products, medicine, auto fluids, paint, and lawn care products at a local household hazardous waste facility or take pharmaceuticals to special collection days. Septic systems and wastewater treatment can't handle these materials. See DEC page 'Safe Medication Disposal for Households'.
  • Use non-toxic cleaning supplies. Remember that the substances that go down your drain will eventually reach a body of water, affecting all the fish and invertebrates in the vicinity.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Attempt to reduce the amount of potential waste coming into your home and actual waste going out.

In your community

  • Get involved.
    students doing pH test
    There are many watershed groups in the region that are working to protect our rivers and streams. These groups and others provide a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, from monitoring water quality to assisting with community-based outreach efforts. The Hudson River Estuary Program also offers opportunities for volunteers to monitor important animal species, including river herring, American eels, and amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders.
  • Act locally. Talk to local officials about your concern for clean water. Land use decisions made by municipalities affect water quality downstream. In many cases, all it takes is a few persistent citizens to motivate local officials to do a better job protecting aquatic habitat and natural resources. This can include adopting codes and ordinances that protect streams and reduce stormwater.
  • Manage stormwater. Protecting natural areas, reducing impervious surface cover in new developments, and utilizing green infrastructure practices to filter runoff are key steps in improving stormwater management. Consider an enforcement program for illicit connections and stormwater violations.
  • Clean it up. Support your local community and participate in a clean-up day. It's a great way to meet other river lovers, introduce kids to river stewardship, and spend a day outdoors. Set an example by always picking up your own trash and pet waste before it washes into our waters, and encourage neighbors to do the same.
  • Prevent hazardous waste from reaching the river. Report chemical spills on roadways or bridges to hazardous waste teams.
    pied-billed grebe
    Who would want to hurt this
    pied-billed grebe?

Down by the river

  • Carry out what you carry in. Leave areas by the river as clean (or cleaner!) than they were when you arrived.
  • Keep a trash bag in your tackle box. If you fish dispose of your fishing line properly in order to prevent animal (or human!) entanglement.

On your boat

  • Don't pick up plant and animal hitchhikers. Reduce the spread of invasive species, such as zebra mussels and water chestnuts, by inspecting and hosing down your boat's hull and draining all bilge water before moving to new waterways.
  • Slow down and enjoy! Treat vegetated shallows, marshes, and mudflats as no wake zones. This will minimize the uprooting of native plants and destruction of wildlife habitat. Take the time to relax and bask in the river's natural beauty.
    boats and swimmers on the Hudson
  • Use mild detergents when cleaning your boat. Toxic cleaners can poison the river's fish and other plants and animals. Natural and biodegradable products work just as well, without the detrimental side effects.
  • Double your cycles. Four-cycle outboard motors are quieter, get much better mileage, and run cleaner than their two-cycle counterparts without compromising power, response, or torque.

We all make decisions about how we live and interact with our environment. We are all a part of the Hudson River Estuary watershed, and we can enjoy and protect it during our day-to-day activities. So get out and savor the river with your family and friends...boat, fish, and hike along its shores, sit in quiet contemplation at one of the many riverside parks, or picnic on a beach and remember that how you do what you do will be reflected in the waters of this magnificent estuary.The State, as well as many local organizations and academic partners, is dedicated to assisting in our shared vision for protecting Hudson Valley water resources. For more information on any of the tools above, please contact the Hudson River Estuary Program.