by Patrick J. Gannon, Ph.D
The Hutchinson River of New York was once a beautiful waterway with spectacular biodiversity. Animals like bald eagles and otters were cautiously managed by native people in pre-colonial times. However, the Hutchinson River has been facing pollution from human activities since the beginnings of European colonization. Today, a significant amount of raw sewage enters the river from Mount Vernon’s faulty lines. The issue was reported by Save the Sound, a regional nonprofit that monitors the health of waterbeds flowing into the Long Island Sound. In an October 2019 article titled “Mount Vernon’s Neglect Puts Residents at Risk”, the Save the Sound Director of Water Protection Tracy Brown commented “we learned that the pollution had been known about for years prior and that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had already repeatedly tried to get Mount Vernon to make the needed repairs to fix the problems to no avail.”
Fast forward to 2022, after several years of lawsuits and water quality testing, Mount Vernon has received a 150 million dollar grant from New York State Governor Kathy Hochul to correct their seriously damaged sewage and storm drain systems. The Mayor of Mount Vernon, Shawyn Patterson-Howard, commented “This is what government working together for the people looks like, and we’re excited to be moving forward together on this monumental sewer project.” Although this is a sizable amount of funding, some experts consider that to do the job right, considerably more money will be required; we’ll see!.
As the project’s plans and timelines become public and the progress evident, the Hutchinson River Restoration Project will monitor longitudinal scientific evidence that proves, beyond all doubt, that the Mount Vernon project shows positive environmental outcomes that contribute towards timely healing of the Hutchinson River, as well as its incredible biodiversity that we all love.
Dr. Patrick J. Gannon is a Member of the Board of HRRP. He holds a Ph. D in Physical and Biological Anthropology from the City University of New York and is Adjunct Clinical Professor and Founding Chair (2007), Department of Science Education at Hofstra University