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KGW reports: In Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed city budget released this week, there’s an interesting $158,000 line item in the park bureau budget: Build a swimming beach under the west side of the Marquam Bridge. The idea is to get more people access to the water on warm days.

The city says the river is safe, just don’t drink the water. To get people to love the Willamette again, and not just view it as industrial, Mayor Ted Wheeler has talked about turning Poetry Beach, into an actual beach for months.

The site is along the river trail and already has a walking path down to the water for a small boat ramp. Under this winter’s high water level, there is a sandy beach down there. The mayor is proposing adding a lane line out in the water to mark off safe swimming, bathrooms, maybe a lifeguard, park ranger safety patrols, picnic tables and possibly even inviting a food cart to set up nearby.

Ella Jackson agreed saying, “This would be a good way to get out and not travel three hours to get to a beach, it’s smart.”

“Getting people to challenge the notion that the river is just a thing to drive over and inviting people to get back into it and reconnect with the Willamette is the goal,” said Wheeler’s senior policy advisor Nathan Howard. “I would say a $158,000 is not ‘nothing’ but it is a small portion of the city budget and really it is a very worthwhile investment to tell the story of the renaissance of the Willamette and all of our public investment has created something we can all experience and is much healthier than it was a couple decades ago.”

If it’s approved in the final city budget at the end of May, Poetry Beach would be fixed up and ready to open as a swimming beach in July through September this year. If this pilot beach goes well, there are plans to invest in the Eastbank Crescent Park on the east side of the river near the Hawthorne Bridge. A floating dock is already very popular with sunbathers and kayakers, but it would be torn out and replaced with multiple docks for swimming and boating, and a sandy beach with picnic tables and restrooms would be built.

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WBUR reports: When you think of the Charles River, a lot of things come to mind. But probably not, say, the backstroke. However, that changed Saturday morning. It has been unthinkable for decades but members of the general public actually swam in the Charles near the Hatch Shell in Boston. Recreational swimming in the river has not been legal since the 1950s, when it was banned because the Charles was so polluted.

A lot of work and about $500 million have been spent on cleaning up that water. Much of it was to separate sewage from storm water and to separate those pipes so that the sewage goes into the island and we don’t have raw sewage going into the River.

Wild Swimming returns to the Charles River Boston

City Lab reports: To be safe for swimming, water must have less than 126 colony forming units of E. Coli per 100 milliliters of water. The standards for safe boating are five times higher. When that nearly-failing D grade was first published in 1995, the part of the river that flows through Boston and Cambridge met boating standards 39 percent of the time and swimming standards an abysmal 19 percent of the time. In 2011, the river was rated safe for boating 82 percent of all days and swimming 54 percent of the time. The overall EPA grade for the last 10 miles of the river is calculated from a composite of daily forecasts and monthly readings. It has hovered for the last few years around B or B+, which many say is the best they can hope for for such an urban river. 

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From the Hudson Reporter:

Dreaming of swimming in the Hudson River?
Local sewerage authority must start action plan for cleaner waterways

Don’t look now, but the Hudson River is on the mend. Marine biologists have reported resurgent oyster populations on the piers of western Manhattan, and humpback whales are returning to New York Bay in droves. No longer is the Hudson a mere receptacle for industrial waste and double-crossed mafiosi.

Unfortunately for the residents of Hudson County, one of the final obstacles preventing the river from being fully safe for swimming and fishing lies directly beneath their feet. Along with several waterfront communities in Bergen and Passaic counties, every city in Hudson County has a combined sewage and storm-water system that overflows during heavy rain events, pouring raw sewage into the Hudson River.

At the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, for example, half of the 18 water samples taken since May 2014 show bacteria levels deemed unsafe for swimming, most coming after rainfall in the four prior days, according to data from clean water watchdog Riverkeeper.

Such combined sewer overflows or CSOs are not just unsafe—they are illegal under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Rather than waiting for the EPA or federal courts to order a corrective plan, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued new permits that require the entities responsible for New Jersey’s 217 combined sewer outfalls to develop long-term plans to reduce the frequency of polluting events.

Positive sign?

Jon Miller, the President of the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, is optimistic that the new sewer permits could mean an end to his organization’s monitoring of water quality in the Hudson River someday soon.

“We have partnered with water testing professionals at Riverkeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper and Resilience adventures among others, to make sure we run a program that is safe for all involved by monitoring outflows and water quality,” said Miller in a statement. “Hopefully in the future this type of monitoring will no longer be necessary as the river becomes even cleaner through the efforts of so many local state and federal organizations.”

However, Fredric Pocci said he doubts New Jersey’s efforts to combat CSOs will be enough to make the Hudson River consistently swimmable on their own. Before coming to the NHSA, Pocci was the chief sewer engineer for New York City, which has 650 combined sewer outfalls in Manhattan alone.

“Whatever we do is a drop in the bucket, literally,” said Pocci. “From what I see right now coming out of the city of New York, I don’t think that they’re planning on attacking [CSOs] the way the state of New Jersey is planning on attacking it, and without them on board with the same kind of game plan, it’s not going to have a positive effect.”

Pocci still thinks Hudson County’s combined sewers are a task worth tackling. “Aside from the fact that this is going to be a very expensive proposition for everyone,” he said, “as a civil engineer, this is very exciting.” More…

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Go ahead and jump, but hold your nose.

The official advice is to go ahead and jump in – but hold your nose!

Just how serious a threat to health are these deadly amoebas?

Why are they so harmful?

Should you keep your children out of the water?

According to SHOTS NPR’S Health Blog, although infection is very rare, swimmers have a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of dying from the infection. In the UK the risk of death from Weil’s disease is 1 in 20,000,000, and for many that means that wild swimming is just too dangerous to contemplate. But do these statistics indicate that outdoor swimming really is a danger to health, should we keep out of the water altogether? Well perhaps a comparison of risks would be helpful. Think for a moment about the very high risk of mortality whilst engaging in everyday activities, take for example travelling by car. 1 in 6,500 travellers die in car accidents each year in the USA, which means that 1 in every 83 Americans will end their life in a car accident (1 in 9600 die each year in the UK). How then do these risks compare? Adults and children are at alarmingly high risk of death when travelling by car, yet we accept these risks, not even giving a thought to them before jumping into the car with our children. As we accept these very high risks even for needless journeys why do we over-react when hearing alarmist reports about the risks of wild swimming in the press? Partly because these reports are just that – alarmist, they are designed to catch attention, filling readers with fear. Another factor is that it’s human nature to strain out the nat whilst gulping down the camel. Read the full article for yourself  and don’t be frightened by everything you hear. If your children want to swim in a warm lake this summer, keep an eye on them and make sure they hold their nose when they jump in!

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The warmer than expected conditions drew many to the waters, with another 1,300 that came to watch the event. The traditional dip organised by the L Street Brownies dates back 100 years, but this years event has broken all previous records… more

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