Tests find bacteria levels in Maryland bodies of water far above federal safety standards

Tests find bacteria levels in Maryland bodies of water far above federal safety standards (Patapsco River, Courtesy of MGN)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) – Swimmers will be discouraged by recent findings announced by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), which has been monitoring local bodies of water all summer.

Tests have found high levels of fecal matter in streams and rivers in big cities as well as some suburban and rural areas. The spiking bacteria levels after rainstorms were hundreds of times above federal safety standards, the CBF found, including in popular swimming holes.

Worse still, many tested sites had elevated bacteria levels even during dry weather which only escalated after rainfalls. About 40 Maryland streams and rivers throughout five Maryland counties were tested by CBF (as well as in Virginia and Pennsylvania).

As it rains, water runs off land and picks up contaminants including human and animal waste from leaking sewer and septic tanks plus manure as well as weed killer, lawn fertilizer and petroleum residue, effectively polluting the water which runs into water bodies.

According to the CBF, “Most counties, as well as Baltimore City, fall far short of complying with goals for upgrading their stormwater systems,” and “several local counties have opted in recent years not to collect adequate revenues to address the problem.”

“Clearly, several local governments have a problem with polluted runoff,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF. “This isn’t an abstract problem. It puts the health of residents who swim, wade or come into contact with these waters at risk. Those governments need to work aggressively to reduce polluted runoff, and ensure the health of their residents.”

“Citizens need to contact their local and state governments and leaders to insist they take more vigorous steps to reduce pollution from animals in streams, failing septic systems and polluted runoff,” Prost said. Health officials say that swimming in or ingesting water polluted by bacteria can cause intestinal illnesses, including stomach aches and diarrhea.

Click here to review results of the tests and a map of the test sites.

Here’s a list of sites the CBF notes have high levels of fecal material:

• White Marsh Run in Baltimore County had bacteria levels at least 400 times higher than safety standards after a rainstorm of .80 inches on Aug. 2. The stream feeds Bird River where people often swim and kayak, although the bacteria was diluted the further it traveled down the river.

• Glade Run, a rural stream that runs through Walkersville and Walkersville Community Park in Frederick County, had bacteria levels 324 times above safety limits after a .43 inch storm on June 16. Children reportedly play in water not far from the test site.

• Cascade Falls, a popular swimming hole on the Cascade Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park in Howard County, had bacteria levels 304 times higher than safe standards after a rain of one inch on July 5. Bathers were seen in the water when the water sample was collected at the site.

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