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Stay Out of River South of Ossining, Officials Say

OSSINING, N.Y. – Kristin Moran would have liked to go kayaking on one of the hottest days of the summer, but after hearing about the sewage spill from a treatment plant in upper Manhattan, she decided to clean her kayak instead.

"It had to be on one of the hottest weekends of the year that this happened. You're going to find me in the kiddie spray park," the avid kayaker and sailor said as headed out of the Ossining Boat and Canoe Club.

Moran's decision came shortly before the county Department of Health lifted restrictions on swimming, kayaking and windsurfing for parts of the Hudson River from Ossining north.

"These areas are outside the area affected by the wastewater being released," county health officials said.

For areas south of Ossining, county health officials recommended no direct contact with Hudson River waters, but did not restrict boating. For those who fish, health officials said they should practice "catch and release" for all points south of Ossining.

Millions of gallons of untreated sewage began dumping into the Hudson River on Wednesday at around 5:15 p.m. after a fire started in the North River wastewater treatment plant on West 135th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan from one of the plant's pump engines.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection officials said that their department is working as quickly as possible to get the plant running again but "the estimated time to bring the plant back online is undetermined."

According to Paul Gallay, the president of Riverkeeper, an Ossining-based environmental watchdog organization that regularly tests the Hudson waters for levels of bacteria, swimming in waters containing unsafe levels of bacteria could lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, or infection of wounds.

On Thursday, Riverkeeper boat captain John Lipscomb sampled waters along the Hudson from the Tappan Zee Bridge down to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan, and the organization was awaiting test results which were expected Friday afternoon, said Riverkeeper spokeswoman Tina Posterli

"It's pretty significant. Our boat captain said the test results are probably going to show a picture of what this river was like four decades ago at a time when corporate polluters weren't held accountable," Posterli said.

Guy May, the director of the sailing academy at Shattemuc Yacht Club said he and about 25 nine- to 15-year-olds in sailing camp had sailed out on the Hudson on Thursday and not noticed any difference in the waters.

"I heard word that there might be a problem around lunch time but they didn't say there was any problem up here," May said. "The kids did swim and it was a beautiful day."

Ossining police officers told May in the evening that the river was not safe for swimming, and the sailing director decided to cancel all water activities for Friday and the weekend.

"I hope they run enough tests and let us know when it's safe to go out again," May said. "I hope they keep the community informed."

Early Friday afternoon, there were no swimmers or boaters off the coast of Ossining, just anchored boats swaying in a gentle breeze.

"The water is relatively calm for the amount of wind we're getting. This would be a perfect day for kayking," Moran said.

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