Floating Sculpture Will Show New Yorkers East River Water Quality

By Clarisa Diaz.

A mysterious new attraction has been seen bobbing in the East River off Pier 17 this fall—a glowing 50-foot plus sign. The floating sculpture, a data visualization beacon called + POOL Light, changes color according to the physical conditions of the water, making water quality updates easily accessible to the public.

Designed by PLAYLAB, INC. and Family New York with Friends of + POOL, the sculpture updates according to a sensor installed in the pier’s water by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s (LDEO) scientist Dr. Wade McGillis. The project coordinates the efforts of multiple community groups seeking to reclaim the water, in a first attempt to communicate real-time data of NYC’s water quality in visual form.

The sculpture glows blue when the water is safe for recreational use and turns pink when pollution levels exceed swimming standards. The direction of the lights change according to the water’s currents, turning clockwise when flowing north, and counterclockwise when flowing south. The brightness, frequency, and sharpness of the light is correlated to levels of oxygen, turbidity, and pH of the water, respectively.

Shawnee Traylor, a science and technology advisor for the project, formerly at LDEO and currently at MIT/WHOI, developed a site-specific algorithm with McGillis that predictively measures the water’s quality based on historical data.

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