Beacon Institute Expands River Observatory Network to Fort Edward

Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries announced today that it has deployed its first of many real-time monitoring stations that will monitor the northern reaches of the Hudson River.

Launched in cooperation with General Electric, the new data collection platform, designated “B2,” is the latest addition to Beacon Institute’s River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON). REON provides minute-to-minute data regarding the physical, chemical and biological conditions of New York’s Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers via an integrated network of sensors, robotics and computational technology distributed throughout both rivers.

B2 is deployed just north of the Thompson Island Dam in the vicinity of the first phase of the Upper Hudson River Dredging Project performed by GE last year.  B2 was designed and engineered by Beacon Institute’s Chief Research and Education Officer, James S. Bonner, Ph.D, P.E. and his REON research team from Clarkson University. GE provided additional equipment and logistical support for the deployment.

Beacon Institute and GE entered into the scientific and technical collaboration to enhance monitoring of the upper Hudson, in particular the movement of sediments and particles that are naturally suspended in the river. Data collected in the research effort will be made available publicly, and will be shared with state and federal regulatory agencies.

“The upper Hudson is more than a site for remedial PCB dredging,” said John Cronin, Director and CEO of Beacon Institute, a thought leader on water issues who lectures nationally on our environmental future. “It has its own ecological, hydrological and chemical characteristics, which deserve independent full-time observation. Few people realize that the acreage of the Hudson River watershed is greatest north of Albany, and that the largest freshwater input to the river comes from this area. We plan continued significant deployments in the upper Hudson. Our scientific collaboration with GE is our next step in creating a ‘source-to-sea’ real-time monitoring network that will observe and monitor changes in the entire watershed.”

“GE is excited to work with the Beacon Institute with this new data-collection platform,” said John G. Haggard, GE’s Hudson River project manager. “We are able to help with the necessary infrastructure and technical resources to facilitate the daily maintenance of the upriver REON network and, at the same time, partner with the Beacon Institute to advance our scientific understanding of conditions in the Upper Hudson River.”

The B2 platform features several on-board sensors that track multiple environmental parameters (see attached sensor array description), including a laser in-situ scattering and transmissometery sensor, or LISST. This advanced sensor shines a narrow red laser beam into the water to measure the number of suspended particles in the water column. These parameters are key measurements toward a better understanding of how particles collide, bundle together and move through water. Since PCBs are transported through the water by readily attaching to sediment particles, understanding this mechanism will help researchers create a model of particle and contaminant transport.

In close proximity of B2, GE deploys its own automated monitoring buoys to collect water samples for laboratory analysis and perform real-time water quality measurements. GE will also continue to perform routine PCB monitoring upstream and downstream of B2.

“B2 gives us the means to correlate PCB and suspended solids data, collected by GE, with our own independent real-time data regarding suspended particle size and distribution,” explained Dr. Bonner, who, in addition to leading Beacon Institute’s REON initiative, is a Shipley Fellow at Clarkson University, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and an oil spill remediation expert. REON’s sensor instrumentation and innovative monitoring technologies have been adapted for river use from Dr. Bonner’s years of oil spill remediation studies and the advanced monitoring network he deployed in Corpus Christi Bay in the Gulf.

Dr. Bonner continues, “This is important scientific research that will help us create a more refined computer model of how particles are transported in the water.  This is relevant both to movement of PCBs in the river and to the movement of other contaminants, phytoplankton blooms, and even dispersed oil. This is a rare opportunity to study particle transport characteristics in a way that will yield important new scientific and environmental insights.”

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