Living in the Rondout watershed for more then a decade driving up and down the 209 corridor which defines our community here I am saddened by the condition of these waterways and our inability as a community to address some foundational needs to improve water quality here and development and land use patterns. Much of the northeastern U.S. is afflicted by the same issues, for instance the E.P.A. estimates that all our nations waterways are too warm and full of sediment. These two factors are systemic pollutants because they cause algae blooms and kill off fish life while severely limiting biodiversity. These streams and rivers in our regions are naturally meant to be cold water streams and waterways.
Here in the Rondout watershed stretching from Ellenville to Kingston we have similar issues caused by tractor farming, roads, power lines and development patterns that go right up to the edge of the Rondout, and many of its feeder streams. This negatively impacts streams by causing temperatures to rise in them, from exposure to sunlight and clogging them with sediment and chemicals from roads and farming, whenever it rains.
Simply having trees for 150 feet along the main stem of all streams and rivers would dramatically improve water quality and fish life in the Rondout and make it safe for swimming which at present it is not according to the DEP. These trees can provide better water quality and nuts, fuel wood and building materials for our local needs.
In addition we have sewage treatment plants all along the Rondout, that are in what the DEP calls chronic non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. Some, like the Napanoch Sewage treatment facility have been on the record for breaking are most rudimentary water quality laws since 1991. These release large volumes of phosphorus, nitrates and fecal coliform which further pollute the Rondout, causing it to be listed as impaired and unsafe to swim in at desirable locations like at the High Falls popular swimming area.
The only streams that are healthier to swim and recreate in, are ones like the Vernooy Kill flowing our of the protected Catskills Park and the Stony Kill, the PetersKill and others that are small and forested all along their stems.
Happy swimming in this heat wave, but beware the main stem of the Rondout it is, sadly, severely degraded and polluted.