From the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:
Water tests show high levels of harmful bacteria in some fresh water streams and lakes in Frederick, Howard, and Harford counties
Some fresh water streams used for swimming, fishing, and other recreation in Maryland have high levels of potentially harmful bacteria, especially after rainstorms, according to water samples taken to date through the summer. Some tests showed bacteria readings as much as 200 times above safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The water testing was conducted through a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Hood College, Howard Community College, and Harford Community College.
“It would be great if we could make all our streams ‘kid-safe’ so that they can be explored on a hot summer’s day. I hope that our monitoring will be a first step in identifying water quality issues in public places,” said Dr. Drew Ferrier, Director of the Coastal Studies Program at Hood College. “Exploring streams, wading in cool waters, finding crayfish and frogs – these are summer past-times. Kids are attracted to streams in public places whether or not they are being used for swimming.”
The samples were taken in Frederick, Howard and Harford counties, and tested in biology laboratories of the three partner colleges. The sampling and testing will continue the remainder of the summer. Results can be found by clicking here.
Samples were taken in a variety of fresh water streams in Frederick and Harford counties, and predominantly in lakes in Columbia in Howard County. Some streams are used as swimming holes, others for fishing or boating. Some are used less for recreation, but flow through public parks or city or suburban neighborhoods.
Findings to date include:
• Kilgore Falls, one of the most popular swimming holes in Harford County, had bacteria readings nearly 50 times higher than safety limits even 48 hours after a heavy downpour. The pool at Kilgore was featured in the Disney movie, Tuck Everlasting.
• Unhealthy readings occurred in most Frederick County streams even during dry weather. Readings often jumped to much more unhealthy levels after storms. For instance, Glade Run that flows through the small town of Walkersville, had bacteria readings in dry weather more than 60 times higher than levels the EPA considers safe for all types of recreational contact with the water, including frequent swimming. Those levels spiked to levels more than 200 times the safety limits after rain storms of at least one-half inch of rain.
• Lakes in Columbia generally were well within safety limits in dry weather tests, but after storms were about three times above levels the EPA considers safe for all types of recreational contact with the water, including frequent swimming.
CBF and the partner colleges undertook the project because streams and lakes in the area often aren’t tested by public authorities. Federal law requires sampling and testing at public beaches, few of which have been identified as such in fresh water areas in Maryland. This project attempted to target recreational areas of various sorts. For instance, many sites in Harford are known to be swimming holes or popular kayaking locations.
“We wanted to see if fresh water streams and lakes in counties further away from the Chesapeake Bay are experiencing the same kinds of pollution problems as the Bay itself, especially polluted runoff. These preliminary results suggest they are. That’s not surprising,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF.
In Frederick and Howard, samples were taken in a mix of dry and wet conditions. In Harford, weekly tests were conducted, some of which occurred with 48 hours of a rainstorm.
Water was tested for the presence of enterococcus bacteria. The EPA considers the presence of this type of bacteria in fresh water a potential indicator of other disease-causing bacteria found in fecal matter. These unhealthy bacteria can cause intestinal problems such as diarrhea when ingested. Fecal bacteria in water comes from human or animal waste. It also often suggests the presence of other pollutants such as nutrients which also are found in waste.
Some of the streams tested in the three counties this summer originate in farm areas, some in more urban or suburban areas.
Polluted runoff carries pet and livestock waste, leaking septic discharges, and other pollution off the landscape and into nearby rivers and creeks. It is known to be the major source of water pollution in many streams and rivers. The Maryland Department of Environment cautions swimmers not to come into contact with natural water for 48 hours after a significant storm, because of polluted runoff.
George Handlin says
Good information, but the link for the full results is not present.
The Swimming hole off Guyton rd is another spot to watch out for. It sickens me when I have gone by there watching entire families bring out their bathing products and bathe in the river. Sadly no one cares about our rivers and streams like they should, but as soon as they put up “posted” signs closing the waters everyone will be up in arms and outraged. Just because that water looks clean doesn’t mean it is.
The way I am reading this is the bacteria level is high after rainstorms. My question is how long after a storm, in a rapid running stream/pool such as Kilgore Falls, will the bacteria level lower to a safe swimming level?
48 hours after the water is totally safe Their data even supported this fact, but for some reason they still said that the water stayed polluted after 48 hours. the Article was just Shock Journalism with some facts to make it sound solid. If this study was a boat it would have sank like the Titanic.
michael blum says
For the past 2 or 3 decades, it has been common knowledge, as the phrase goes, that you cannot safely consume any water flowing in any natural way in any state east of the Mississippi, period. Protozoal infections, bacterial infections, parasitic infections — these abound. You can get flesh-eating bacteria kayaking in the Susquehanna above Harrisburg; these are moving downstream and will be at Havre de Grace soon enough. Microbiologists since at least 1980 have warned against consuming anything that comes out of the Chesapeake Bay — not a crab, not an oyster, not a rockfish. It’s all due to run-off from “civilization.” There are no safe levels; the only “safe” sources are lakes surrounded by acres and acres of dense pine forests, that serve as natural filters (and even these lakes, generally in upstate New York, are susceptible to acid rain). The only good thing that can come from this kind of news article is that maybe it will help wake people up to what is actually happening, or has already happened but could still be fixed, to our natural surface water sources.
While on the subject, this area of Rocks is becoming increasingly littered with trash left behind from visitors, many of whom incessantly smoke cigarettes. Very scenic area but it is more and more hard to enjoy a visit.
My family held a gathering at Rocks recently and we left with 4 trash bags of our own trash. I didn’t see too many others with any. It was fairly clean, but I was left wondering who cleans up after those who don’t clean up after themselves.
Before patting yourself on the back too much, how many bags of recycling did you leave with?
We brought two trash cans actually, one for recycling and one for everything else. Unfortunately, as groups of people are prone to doing, people didn’t stick with it. So we had one that had mostly bottles and cans that I picked through when I got home. The majority of the trash was not recyclable anyway, unfortunately. (used plates, napkins, food, etc) Everything that was in cardboard packaging was removed from it ahead of time and put into another container for transport to/from and all of it went into the recycling pick up the next day.
I re-read my comment and you’re correct – that was pretty snarky. It is easy to be a wise ass on the internet. My apologies.
John Cornul says
BS Noble. I was there that day. You all left your trash on the ground, don’t lie about bringing trash cans either.
It was me that cleaned up all the trash from you despicable people.
Ha. Yeah right.
Joe Fleckenstein says
I am merely posing a question — I wonder how realistic the safety standards are that the EPA supplies, and can we realistically clean-up the waterways/lakes enough to satisfy them?
It is quite possible that indeed there are major problems. Just curious what the standards are today compared to 40 or 50 years ago, for example?
I am for clean waterways and the preservation of aquatic/plant life, just like everyone else.
Keith Gabel says
The EPA is using peer-reviewed research, so it is probably as accurate as we are going to get at the moment.
So, if you are a left-wing environmentalist, and all your peers are left-wing environmentalists, what does that prove? That group-think makes for good science?
Keith Gabel says
That isn’t how the peer review process works.
His question didn’t pertain to accuracy, it was about how realistic their limits are. I could set purity requirements that the cleanest waterway couldn’t meet if humanity had never existed… then crow on about how filthy the water is. This is how the feds love to behave – lets them demand more money. Like Joe, I’m all for clean water but I know how good the feds are at spending other people’s money on the wrong thing.
Keith Gabel says
I’m not sure I see the distinction between accurate safety levels and good enough for drinking and swimming.
As of right now, according to the article, there is no government body stating that people cannot swim in and drink the water, only that some researchers strongly recommended that nobody do it. References to federal spending are not presently relevant.
People can swim-in and drink the discussed water to their hearts content.Nobody is stopping them. If enough people get sick, then we will know for sure that the safety standards are realistic. The more, the merrier.
For me, accuracy refers to how closely you can consistently measure the sample. He was referring to the standard they’re setting as a benchmark. If the benchmark is 10ppm that’s the standard while accuracy would refer to how closely the test can measure. Obviously a test that only measured down to increments of 20ppm would be useless. His question and my comment refer to the benchmarks used and if they’re realistic. I don’t know because I can’t compare their benchmark numbers to a “pristine” unpolluted waterway that has animals going wee in it. For all I know, their ideal standard is distilled water.
Keith Gabel says
The joy of the peer-review system is that all of your questions can be easily answered.
The EPA created the standards by studying the bacteria levels of several fresh water recreation locations and then measuring the incidence of gastrointestinal illness reported by recreational swimmers in those locations. Samples were taken on several different occasions and there was a variation of the bacteria counts For the same location. Standards were created based on bacteria levels which showed a statistically significant increase in the level of illness. So it was not based on any historical levels, but on levels above which showed a marked increase in illness.
Rain does not cause bacteria but it does move it. So where is the bacteria coming from?
your balls says
The dirt is under your balls, when people shower in the creek, and dont wash there bung holes.
The answer is sewage……as the water table increases to greater than normal amounts the sewage and other waste gets mingled in to the normally “clean” water. Don’t get me wrong tho, I advocate swimming pools. I don’t think ANY water in Maryland is good water anymore…….
People always laugh, but the Bush river is probably one of the most cleanest watersheds. Why?
Its simple, a large portion of beach front property (unlike most watersheds in MD) is not occupied by houses and commercial property.
The only reason bacteria is low on the Bush river is from a century of Edgewood and Aberdeen leeching cancer causing deadly chemicals into it.
I’ll take bacteria over a tumor any day.
Hah, and you think no other waterways in Maryland have had chemicals dumped into it for years? Your ignorance shines bright.
You think the Bush is the “most cleanest” (whatever that means) and I’m the ignorant one.
That’s rich. Go for a swim you deserve it.
Nevermimd, I see you posted “one of the cleanest.”
I’m obviously very sorry and apologize for my ignorance.
I’m just a drug addict.
Sorry flop my mother fed me a diet of lead paint chips so I am clueless on what clean water is. I eat my own poop and it’s delicious,
George Condorside says
Most cleanest means exactly what it says, as compared to run off from residential, commercial and industry into water ways, the Bush river has very minimal of that in current day. Do you have a reading comprehension problem? Nature finds a way, however after studying sediment in various waterways for a few decades, I’d agree the Bush is pretty clean and safe compared elsewhere.
Many more industries and commercial property pollute many other water ways all over the state in past and present.
+20 years watershed environmental scientist.
doesnt suprise me. have you seen the pieces of human shit that inhabit harford county? they make johnstown PA and youngstown OH look like paradise
The study raises awareness but there are some issues.
1. Only 6 days of water testing were done, and they were mostly chosen during a heavy rain/flood event in June/ early July. SIx samples/tests is not near enough data to draw any kind of accurate conclusion. DNR has years of water testing available online and there is not a correlation between their data and”data” from this quick study”. Also CBF stated that testing would continue, but testing stopped the day this article was published and has not resumed to date. (look it up on their website.
2. The article states that high levels of bacteria are present even after 48 hours of a storm. That is an incorrect statement – I researched the dates and the weather occurrences for each sample collected in Harford County. Of the 6 test samples, the 5 that were super high in fecal readings, and the basis for this article/study were taken during a major storm event with heavy flooding and higher than normal runoff at the time the water sample was procured, obviously not anywhere near the 48 hour window set as when it should be safe to swim THE 6th SAMPLE (one in Black) WAS THE ONLY ONE TAKEN 48 HOURS AFTER A RAIN EVENT, AND IT WAS WELL BELOW THE EPA MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE LEVELS TO BE CONSIDERED SAFE TO RECREATE IN, AKA SWIM, BOAT, ETC. The data shows that it is safe after 48 hours and that it is only potentially bad in the 0-48 hour window after the storm.
3.There is zero data to support the statement that the water is still not safe after 48 hours. 48 hours is a standard limit set because we have known for years it is not the safest time to swim during a flood, for a few reasons…
4. It raised a bit of a panic locally, and for no real good reason. Unless you ate paint chips every day for breakfast as a kid, you are not going to go swim in deer creek or falling branch when it was flooding like it did this June. Even if the water was 100% clean, the current and other dangers due to flooding would hurt you worse than the pollution.
5. This June was also the wettest on record. How this relates to the study is that by the time the first water sample was taken, the ground was saturated with water and anything that fell on the surface was going to runoff into the streams and not soak in at all. Basically the amount of water in the soil made every surface “temporarily impervious” such as a parking lot always is. This allowed for every micron of anything that was on the surface to flow directly into the creek, where as on any given month (average scenario) the ground would absorb a good amount of the bacterial pollutants that where running off this June. In essence it was a perfect storm of variables that allowed for the data from this study to be inflated and manipulated easier than usual to show what they wanted it to.
5. I also wonder how consistent the locations for the samples were as it would have been really hard to get to the swimming area at the base of the falls during many of these rain event days since the trail crosses the creek on pavers and in any kind of water the pavers go under and it becomes inaccessible. Again to legitimize a study, the data must be collected in the same location every time, I suspect that this was not done due to the weather history for the stated times of collection and the creek water levels.
I agree that runoff is an issue that should be looked into more, but this article and attached study were not done accurately according to basic rules of unbiased scientific experimentation. For this group of professors, there was a result that was desired by the group, and the data was collected and manipulated to reach desired result. That is my opinion because I have lived and played in the watershed my whole life and according to the studies I have participated in, the water is very clean. Deer creek for example is the cleanest stream in the state of MD, It has one of the few remaining native Brooke Trout populations left in the state (trout are highly sensitive to pollution in the water and will die if the water is not pristine.