New York Post: Clean sweep

In an article in the New York Post that boasts that New York has had the greatest environmental turn-around in American history over the past 40 years, Pace Senior Fellow John Cronin’s contributions are touted as a major factor.

Pace Senior Fellow John Cronin opens and closes a feature article in the New York Post about environmental progress in New York State in the past 40 years.

From the New York Post:

“They called their effort the Pipe Watch, because that was essentially what they did: troll the Hudson River, document the vile junk oozing into the river from factory and sewage pipes, and either sue or embarrass the polluter into cleaning it up.

John Cronin was one of them, a young volunteer who had grown up in Yonkers, on the shores of the Hudson. Even though it was the river where his father had learned to swim and his grandfather had been a commercial fisherman, Cronin had been taught to avoid it. And not without reason. For hundreds of years — starting not long after Henry Hudson explored it, convinced by its majesty that he had found the long-sought passage to Asia — humanity had been using it as one big sewer, flushing anything we no longer desired into its currents.

By 1973, when Cronin first started working on the river, the contamination had left a seemingly indelible smear. Wax from a candle company coated the rocks in Newburgh. Adhesive from a tape manufacturer congealed on the beaches in Beacon. Paint from an automotive factory stained the water in Tarrytown. Junkyards and abandoned cars lined the shores and shallows.

On some days, the smell was so bad it made his eyes water.

The thought that someone might kayak on it or wade into it — as happens regularly these days — was a far-off dream.

“It’s hard for people today to understand how troubled and filthy the river was in the early 1970s,” said Cronin, who was hired a few years later by what was then known as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association to be the first full-time river keeper on the Hudson, a job he held until 2000.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a waterway on the planet that has undergone more of a dramatic transformation than the Hudson River has over the last 40 years.”

What has happened is an important piece of a larger narrative that — while it often gets lost in the daily squabbles that pit developer against environmentalist, Republican against Democrat, special interest against general interest — is worth noting as we flip the calendar from 2011 to 2012.

Viewed from the long lens of decades, the New York area as a whole is in the midst of one of the more remarkable environmental success stories in American history.

Its air is more breathable than it has been during any time that records have been kept — and, at least anecdotally, is better than it has been since the Industrial Revolution began.

Its waterways, here in the year when we mark the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, are cleaner than they have been in generations.  …

Like many cities, New York has a combined sewer system, meaning street runoff and sanitary sewer lines all drain to the same place. On dry days, the city’s 14 sewage treatment plants have enough capacity to handle the flows. But about 50 days a year, it rains too hard for the treatment plants to keep up. The overflow goes into the river.

A few years back, the city estimated that fixing the problem with conventional infrastructure — holding tanks, larger pipes and increased treatment capacity — would cost close to $60 billion. The Bloomberg administration has instead rolled out a plan for a $1.5 billion green infrastructure program that, by promoting everything from green roofs to porous pavement, aims to reduce runoff to the point where the system can handle all but the most significant rain events without overflow.

If that can happen, it would put the Hudson one step closer to the most audacious goal Cronin, its longtime river keeper, has for it: to become the first well-populated river in the United States to have zero pollution discharge.

“The Hudson should be a river where any kid can go down to the shore and catch a fish for the family dinner table,” said Cronin, who now serves a dual role as a fellow at Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute and at Pace University. “That’s a dream with a lot of pieces, because it requires knowing the fish are there, knowing the fish are fit to eat and having access to the river. But given how far we’ve come in the last 30 years, there’s no reason at all we can’t make that happen in the next 30.”
Read the full article here:

Clean sweep –

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