Harbor Water Quality


New York Harbor is cleaner now than at any time in the last 100 years! Continued improvements to wastewater handling and treatment are chiefly responsible for continued improvements to harbor water quality, which have led to increased recreational opportunities such as swimming and fishing. We conduct numerous programs designed to maintain this trend. We operate 14 wastewater treatment plants that together treat around 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater and biosolids each day. We also employ a fleet of boats that are used to monitor the waters and shoreline for water quality and sources of pollution.

Harbor Water Sampling Locations and Data

We collect samples of harbor water at 70 sampling stations throughout New York Harbor. To view our harbor water sampling data as well as a map of the sampling station locations, visit Harbor Water Quality on NYC Open Data.

Harbor Water Quality Report

Download the 2018 Harbor Water Quality Report

To view our Harbor Water Quality Reports from previous years, visit our Publications Database and search for “Harbor Water Quality.”

Boat Sewage Disposal

New York’s marine and inland waters are designated as No Discharge Areas (NDAs). It is illegal for boaters to discharge sewage within these waters. The illegal disposal of sewage elevates pollutant levels in New York’s waterways and threatens vital aquatic habitats.

Instead, boaters must use one of 12 New York City pump out stations to dispose of their waste. Nearly all stations are free, making proper disposal of sewage especially convenient. Pumping stations are open most days during boating season, which typically runs from April to November.

Sentinel Monitoring Program

Through our Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) program, we conduct a regular shoreline surveys to identify and characterize shoreline outfalls. If we observe a dry weather discharge, we perform an intense investigation to confirm the source of the discharge and to eliminate it. As an enchancement to the IDDE program, we designed a Sentinel Monitoring Program, in cooperation with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), to periodicly monitor and sample 80 ambient stations throughout New York Harbor. We perform sampling after a dry period of forty eight hours and during various tidal cycles and seasons to ensure statistical integrity. We compare the sampling results to an established baseline set by the DEC. If sampling results are above the baseline, we aggressively pursue field investigations and surveillance of the adjacent shoreline to determine the source and cause of the contamination and implement immediate actions to abate any illegal discharges. We follow all shoreline survey protocols described in the Wastewater Permits—State Pollution Discharge Elimination (SPDES) Permit Program.

Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Report

Download the 2020 Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Report

To view our Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Reports from previous years, visit our Publications Database and search for “Sentinel.”

Fecal Coliform Sample Results