by DINA CAPPIELLO, Staff writer
A $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday will place Patroon Creek under 24-hour scientific surveillance, supplying researchers, residents and students with essential information about the stream’s health.
This data “will help identify pollutants that may pose a hazard to our citizens,” said Mayor Jerry Jennings. The city applied for the grant on behalf of nine environmental, educational and government organizations. “With this grant, we hope to begin the process of renewal,” he said.
The money will pay for gauges and computers to track up-to-the-minute changes in the water and air surrounding Patroon Creek, which runs from Rensselaer Lake in the Pine Bush Preserve through some of the most industrialized areas of the city on its way to the Hudson River.
Kiosks will be built in the Tivoli Preserve in order for the public to access the information, which will be collected by groups splitting the grant.
Environmentalists, seeking to have the stream upgraded to a cleaner classification and to prevent further discharges into its waters, said on Monday that such “real-time” data will help catch polluters and provide valuable evidence for Patroon Creek’s protection.
“We are building the capacity to protect the watershed,” said Aaron Mair of the W. Haywood Burns Environmental Educational Center, the lead organization for the program. “It all comes down to monitoring.”
Until now, the creek was monitored by a number of different entities. Many of the resulting studies looked at the organisms living in the stream as a measure of its health.
“You have a number of jurisdictions collecting data, but nobody is coming together and building the whole picture. That picture is the health of the creek,” said Mair.
Since 1993, Patroon Creek has rebounded from being one of the state’s most polluted streams. But there still are stretches where the sediment is laced with heavy metals, and surprises like the city water task force’s discovery two years ago that some businesses near Everett Road were dumping raw sewage into the stream.
The EPA’s grant program — Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking — was created in 1996 to help communities collect, manage and present environmental information to their residents.