The tidal waters of Anne Arundel County were the cleanest this week of any week during the summer. There’s a qualification, of course. With rain in the forecast our healthy water could go bad quickly.
Water monitoring tests for bacteria levels this Wednesday found only two problem areas in five major rivers and their tributaries in the county—out of about 130 sites tested. That’s remarkable. I mean, that’s clean, Irish Spring clean!
Even places such as Dividing Creek on the Magothy had healthy bacteria levels this week. Dividing Creek, and its neighbor, Mill Creek, are fouled with high bacteria virtually all the time.
So swim, or tube, or wade in with no compunction—until it rains. Then it’s everyone out of the water.
Here’s the only two bad spots this week:
Olde Severna Park drainage ditch – 788
Mill Creek – 608
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 130 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.
Rain washes human and animal waste from the landscape. For that reason, county and state officials warn residents not to swim or come into contact with water for 48 hours after a significant rain.
Bacteria that is ingested can cause an upset stomach. In some cases more harmful bacteria coming into contact with open wounds can cause serious infection.