A Caveat: This post is purely a rant, I don't particularly know what I'm talking about, just saw that there was something that did actually work to keep those of us south of the Narrows somewhat informed, and assumed that there's no particular reason that that site couldn't be adapted to be of use to those north of the Narrows, too. We've all heard what they say about "Assume", though, right?
Taken from Friday's comments - I just put one down that was practically a free-standing post, so figured I might as well take 5 more minutes & finish this off before anybody suggests that I change the name of the blog to "The Big Blog of Sewage Ickiness".
So I'd asked on Friday what the glaring issue with the DOH water-quality site was. Tillerman actually caught an interesting linkage issue - I've been using that site for long enough that I don't read the directions anymore, but for those who do, the directions say to click on the map for borough details, which doesn't actually work - you click the links below the map. That would be easy enough for the webmaster to fix.
That wasn't what I was after, though. My beef with this site after last week's problems? It's entirely beach-o-centric! There's not ONE place in the entire stretch of water around Manhattan that they bother monitoring. They haven't caught on to the fact that these days, it's not just beachgoers who need this info. The DOH was keeping close enough tabs on things last week that I was able to click on this map, look at the Brooklyn beaches & be quite confident that we'll be able to drop people in the water during the class I'm helping with tomorrow without any problem - but all my friends who paddle up in Manhattan? Their waters are a Giant Black Hole Of Non-Information. Seems to me taht the DOH really ought to fix that. A few more monitoring spots at NYC Watertrail launch sites & it would be useful to a lot of people who instead are just hanging on for press releases. Bleah!
Now...a friend from the club weighed in with the points that even for the spots that are tested, there's usually a 24-hour delay, which, given the tidal nature of the area, is usually enough that by the time you see the notice, the condition has probably already improved (for example, most of the paddlers who are in the loop around here KNOW that CSO's, Combined Sewage Outfalls, start putting crap in the water when the system is overwhelmed, so a heavy rainstorm means no rolling practice for a day or so). He also says that sometimes the folks at the DOH will sometimes post erroneous readings, or sometimes even make things up.
I can't really address the last 2 charges...all I'm trying to suggest here is just something that seems to me to be a practical, not-too-hard-to-implement step to take in improving the way the city gets information out to EVERYONE who's recreating in the water these days. All my friends at the boathouses were upset about how clumsily the information on the spill was disseminated (especially those who were playing in the river the day the spill began and found out about it the next day). The DOH HAS a website that is specifically designed to share exactly the kind of information that needed to be shared, and in this case it worked reasonably well - it just didn't give any information to anybody in the area that was the most affected. Updating that site to give similar information to people using the water around Manhattan seems pretty much like a no-brainer of a step to take.
Of course one reason the DOH might prefer NOT to give that info is because despite the fact that there are NO official swimming beaches around Manhattan, there are still plenty of places that people can get into the water, and if the water quality updates include North River, East River & Harlem River, that might somehow be interpreted as some sort of official acknowledgement that the water that people are swimming in anyways is actually OK to swim in...
Using that as a reason to maintain an information blackout for the entire area around Manhattan seems like some awfully head-in-the-sand, down-the-rabbithole, bass-ackwards rationalization, though.
This really seems like a perfect wake-up call to the city to recognize that it's not just beachgoers that need to be kept informed.
As far as the lag - I can accept that as natural; perhaps a more direct approach to getting the info out in case of a major spill like this one should be kept at the ready. Wouldn't it have been nice if when the sewage started to spill, somebody (parks, FDNY, harbor patrol, CG Auxiliary, any or all of the above) had been called and asked to put some people out on patrol to let people who were using the water AT THAT TIME (like the NYO folks who paddled north until their noses told them to turn around, or the New York Kayak Polo team who were enjoying a pleasant evening's practice at Pier 66) know what was going on?
They wouldn't even have had to go around kicking people off the water - just tell them what was going on, let them make their own decisions and ask them to spread the word & watch for official announcements as things developed.
Thus endeth the rant. Thank you for letting me vent (or outfall). I expect to return to my normal cheery burbles tonight.