Drought conditions kept bacteria levels low in area swimming spots this week. So even though you might have to take shorter showers, you can swim in most local creeks and rivers without worry.
Weekly water monitoring on Wednesday found only a few spots with high bacteria readings. These unhealthy swimming areas were most likely polluted from a source other than stormwater, since we’ve had so little rain. For instance, waterfowl sometimes gather in some shallow creeks, and the birds’ waste makes bacteria levels spike.
Here are this week’s unhealthy spots for swimming or other recreational activities involving water contact. For a Google map of those sites check here. The areas are:
Mill Creek – 956
Dividing Creek – 832
Harbor Hills – 190
Pine Wiff – 292
Holly Hills/Bearneck Creek – 106
The acceptable level for swimming and other direct water contact is determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of the Environment and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. For bodies of water that the Department samples weekly and biweekly, the acceptable level of enterococci bacteria is 104 or fewer bacteria colonies per 100 milliliters of water. For areas that are sampled monthly, the acceptable level is 158 or fewer colonies per 100 milliliters. See Water Quality Fact Sheet. All the spots on the list above exceed safety levels.
Both the county health department and a network of volunteers test over 100 public beaches and other areas around the county for bacteria. The results from the county tests are put online here, and for the volunteer tests here for Severn and Magothy rivers, here for South River, and here for Rhode/West River. All the sites listed above were tested by Watershed Stewards.
Weather reports for the weekend predict a dry Saturday, and 40 percent chance of a thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon, so bacteria levels should remain constant for most of the weekend. Rain storms wash pollution from the landscape that contains bacteria. County and state health officials caution not to swim for 48 hours after a significant storm for this reason.
Have fun, stay safe.