Urban runoff named primary NY water pollution source, 1 day after NRDC sues to clean it up

EPA today announced that it has finalized New York State’s 2010 list of polluted rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters – identifying urban stormwater runoff as their most common source of pollution. These are bodies of water where pollution levels actually violate state standards established to protect healthy fishing, swimming, shellfish harvesting and other uses. In today’s announcement, EPA pledged to “work with state and local governments to ensure that impaired waters are cleaned up."

EPA’s pledge couldn’t come at a better time. It’s just a day after NRDC, joined by a coalition of New York-based environmental groups, filed suit against the state for failing to take the steps required by state and federal law to clean up... you guessed it, urban runoff. Earlier this year, the state re-issued its “general permit” for municipal stormwater discharges, without including legally mandated provisions to achieve state water quality standards and reduce runoff pollution “to the maximum extent practicable.” NRDC’s suit seeks to remedy that.

As summer starts, New Yorkers are heading to the beach, getting in kayaks and breaking out their fishing poles – but, as our suit and the new “impaired waters” list shows, many of New York’s waterways are suffering from urban runoff pollution.

NRDC will continue its efforts to get the state to do what’s needed to clean up these waters. And let’s hope EPA backs up its words with action and provides the necessary support – and the necessary oversight – to the state and local governments, to ensure the Clean Water Act’s goal of “fishable / swimmable” waters is achieved throughout New York.