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Bronx River Health Checkup Shows Ebbs and Flows

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Scientists, environmental advocates and private citizens are getting their feet wet to find out how healthy the Bronx River is. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

On a sunny Monday morning, I made my way into a shallow section of the Bronx River looking for creatures called Asian Clams, which are not native to the waterway.

"Right now we are just kind of trying to see what they are, what they are doing and try and establish a baseline to figure out what's here," said Columbia University Research Assistant Sarah Bruner.

I joined one of the teams looking at a day in the life of the Bronx River, which is 23 miles long and flows from Westchester into the East River. Members of the city Parks Department, Bronx River Alliance and New York-New Jersey Harbor and Estuary Program were joined by professional and citizen scientists to study the health of the river. It's getting cleaner, but there is still work to be done.

"We do have high bacteria counts in portions of the river, and we are looking at where is that and why is that, and let's get the data to help us tackle that," said Parks Department Bronx River Administrator Linda Cox.

"Cleaner water means it won't smell, you won't see the trash floating down, and also in terms of the life on the river. We know that people like to fish, they like to watch birds, and those kind of animals really depend on better water quality," said NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program Director Robert Pirani.

Teams found eels and crayfish in the river. Daniel Atha from the New York Botanical Garden was searching for horned pondweed and common waterweed -- and his team found some.

"That's a good sign. These are native species. A lot of times we are looking for invasive species, ones we don't want to find, or ones we want to get rid of," Atha said.

Columbia University Senior Ecology Lecturer Matt Palmer hopes communities along the river will see there are numerous groups that care about it.

"That's it's something they can be proud of, something they can get involved with, helping to clean it up, helping to manage some of the environmental problems here," Palmer said.

The researchers say they have been following each other's work for years but in some cases never met in person. Now that they have gathered like this, they are hoping to do it again, perhaps once a year.

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