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Riverkeeper Aims to Protect, Defend and Preserve the Hudson River

The Riverkeeper Organization has been maintaining and caring for the Hudson River for the past 44 years.

What is the overall quality of the Hudson River and what is being done to sustain a body of water that is so crucial to millions of people?

Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, and his team have been working to increase the overall health of the Hudson River for the past 44 years.

The Hudson River extends 153 miles, reaching from the New York Harbor to the Federal Dam in Troy. It is a critical habitat to various types of fish and aquatic life and its watershed provides clean drinking water to over 9 million people.

For over four decades, the Riverkeeper has been working to defend the Hudson River's ecosystem, protect New York's drinking water, enforce laws to protect the river, stop polluters and patrol waterways.

According to Gallay, if the Hudson River were to be given a letter grade, it would earn a "B."

At present, the river is unsafe to swim in one out of every five days, especially after a rain shower. The Hudson River faces many environmental threats that hinder the Riverkeeper's efforts.

The aging water treatment infrastructure and Indian Point's cooling water intakes are two major threats to the Hudson River today. Over 1 billion fish and creatures living in the river are affected and killed each year.

Gallay fears that planned reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge will have a negative impact on the condition of the river as well.

"Before we move forward with the Tappan Zee Bridge project," said Gallay, "we should be looking for alternatives that will be good for transit without being bad for the river."

Some alternatives that he suggests are refurbishing the bridge, building a tunnel instead or, if they must rebuild the bridge, use it for mass transit.

Riverkeeper has organized Riverkeeper Sweep 2012, a day of clean-ups, outreach and activism, to take place on June 2, the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Riverkeeper invites the community to volunteer to help clean up the trash brought into the river from various storms, including Hurricane Irene, over the past year.

According to Gallay, the Riverkeeper will stop at nothing to ensure that the Hudson River is clean and safe for all living organisms. He hopes to bring the river's grade from a "B" up to an "A+" in the near future.

"Our main goal is to bring more people to the Hudson River than ever before," said Gallay. "There is strength in numbers."

For a list of Earth Day-related activities and events, go here.

For other Earth Day 2012 articles and postings, go here.

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