What’s the point of having a water quality testing program for bacteria if you decide you won’t test when bacteria is high? That’s effectively what Anne Arundel Department of Health seemed to decide this week.
Here’s what you’ll find today on the department’s webpage that is supposed to list test results for the 100 or so places county monitors take water samples for bacteria:
“Due to extremely heavy rainfall that occurred earlier in the week, the Department of Health had to postpone routine sampling. Therefore, a water quality report will not be posted on August 31.”
Say what? The period of a few days after a heavy rainfall is exactly when you’d expect bacteria levels to be high. Rain washes bacteria from animal and human waste on the ground (think dog poop, failing septic discharges, etc.) directly into creeks and rivers. You’d think testing this week, therefore, would be more important than other dry weeks. Anticipating high readings after last weekend’s heavy rains, however, the county opted, apparently, not to test.
Tests are always conducted on Wednesdays. That was several days after the heavy rains, so it’s not like county officials were prevented from getting out to the test sites.
Does the county not want to scare people? Not want to educate people? Again, what’s the point of reporting bacteria readings only when you know they will be low? Bizarre, and disappointing. And I would guess this violates state and federal law that requires testing precisely because the public should know what they are swimming in.
Bacteria can make you sick to your stomach, or in some more rare cases, cause serious illness or death, if you ingest it, or touch.
Normally, if the county found high readings it would issue swimming advisories, send out electronic advisories to people who signed up for such notices, and sometimes post signs at public beaches. Since the county didn’t test this week, none of that will happen, regardless whether bacteria readings are high or not.
My guess, however, is readings weren’t as high as the county feared. Volunteers around the county who do their own testing regime reported low bacteria readings. Apparently, pollution washed into the water by last Sunday’s rains was diluted by the time volunteers tested on Wednesday. For instance, of the 12 sites the South River Federation tests, only one, at the Berkshire Community on the South River, had an elevated level, and not too bad at that. The entire Rhode/West river system was clean.
The health department did at least provide a general warning on its website that residents shouldn’t swim after rainstorm, cautioning that heavy rains are expected over the Labor Day weekend. Here’s the wording:
“Rainfall is predicted over the Labor Day Weekend. Heavy rainfall can lead to rainwater runoff and high bacteria levels in our waterways. The Department of Health advises that after rainfall, you wait at least 48 hours or until the water clears before swimming, wading or other direct water contact. For more information about Water Quality and Swimming, see “
This is the last of my weekly blogs that will report bacteria test results for the week – at least for this summer. Testing is done only up to Labor Day by the various county and volunteers groups whose data I aggregated.
Have fun. Be safe.