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Alliance Of Businesses & Local Govts. Working To Clean Inner Harbor Waters

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Water in the Inner Harbor is so unhealthy, going for a swim might end with a tetanus shot.

But Alex DeMetrick reports an alliance of business and local government thinks swimming and fishing are possible by 2020.

It’s been a long time since people went for a swim in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. So how can we get it clean enough to go swimming again?

“It’s hard to know how to get somewhere unless you know where you’re starting,” Laurie Schwartz of the Waterfront Partnership said.

University of Maryland researchers have now spelled it out.

“This is the first Baltimore Harbor report card, and what we found, not surprisingly, is we’ve got really degraded conditions,” said Dr. William Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Overall, water quality received a grade of “D,” with a “D” in dissolved oxygen, an “F” in nitrogen levels, and a “D” in the amount of harmful bacteria.

It did not offer a grade on the tons of trash that wash into the harbor after rainstorms.

But for businesses who have spent millions for those waterfront views, improving the harbor has become a cause, and forged an alliance with Baltimore City and County to have a swimmable, fishable harbor in eight years.

“It’s a huge goal,” Mike Hankin, chairman of the Waterfront Partnership, said. “If 2020 sounds ambitious, it is ambitious.”

If there’s optimism by supporters of a cleaner harbor, it isn’t just wishful thinking. The harbor is actually less polluted than it used to be.

Brian Lanasa has seen it firsthand, in his three decades of running boats here.

“My first job was debris recovery in the harbor, and there’s a lot less now than there was 30 years ago,” Lanasa of the Port Administration said. “I’ve seen it change a lot over the years. When I started, there was no fish to speak of in the harbor.”

Today there are fish, but they aren’t safe for eating. To do that and swim, the Waterfront Partnership has plans to better control what runs into the harbor.

All that’s missing is the money.

It’s estimated it will cost Baltimore City and County $220 million to make improvements to reduce stormwater runoff into the harbor.

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