Some environmentalists say a policy shift by the U.S. Coast Guard could lead to large freighters and barges, including oil tankers, being parked along the Hudson River, and are calling on the feds to take action.

Jennifer Rawlinson knows what it’s like to grow up next to a river that’s less than clean.

“The Hudson River is known as like the largest Superfund," she said. "You know that was what we were raised with, dead fish floating down the river.”

Rawlinson is part of the Newburgh Clean Water Project, a group devoted to improving the quality of drinking water in the city of Newburgh. She was disappointed when she discovered the Coast Guard changed the definition of the Port of New York, significantly shrinking its footprint and opening up the rest of the river for anchoring by container barges.

What You Need To Know

  • A change from the Coast Guard could redefine what is considered the Port of New York

  • It could limit the port to everything up to the Mario Cuomo Bridge, leaving the rest of the Hudson River susceptible to addition anchoring by container barges carrying oil and other materials, according to Rep. Pat Ryan

  • Ryan and environmentalist groups want the Coast Guard to undo the change after a 2017 law was passed that protected the length of the Hudson from oil barge anchoring

“It's quite frustrating," she said. "But I mean, I feel that most (environmental justice) communities, this is what we deal with all the time anyway.”

Rawlinson fears the Hudson River north of the Mario Cuomo Bridge could become a parking lot for oil barges and other containers carrying potentially hazardous material. Other environmental activists say if a spill or accident happens, hundreds of thousands of people could have their drinking water supply contaminated.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard for comment. A spokesperson said it will closely monitor anchoring activity on the river, and will implement special orders when deemed necessary.

In a statement, they added that they “will keep the public and all stakeholders informed with any changes or updates to ensure the Hudson River remains safe for all communities and users.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said, “DEC is in communication with local, state, and federal partners and will closely review any proposed use of the Hudson River north of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.”

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said this was something the Coast Guard did without any public input.

“The elected officials, the public, we're all at the table," Sullivan said. "We all came to consensus and we had a good outcome. Now, acting unilaterally, they have jeopardized the entire river.”

Neighbors like Rawlinson hope a solution can be reached where everyone can safely share the waterway.

“It seems to me that a lot of decisions  are made on a day-to-day basis that really don't consider the communities that are being impacted, or that it would it would affect in any way, shape or form," she said.

Rep. Pat Ryan has voiced his opposition to this change. In a letter to the Coast Guard, Ryan said he’s concerned the impacts it would have on communities on or near the river, the natural resources of the region and the importance of the river in facilitating commerce.