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Officials Still Debating Cause Of The Smell At The Inner Harbor

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– WJZ is continuing to investigate the smell at the Inner Harbor and if raw sewage is to blame. The initial results are in.

Monique Griego has more on just how dangerous the water is.

Although the initial results show elevated levels of a disease-causing bacteria in the water, how serious the problem is and what’s causing it still up for debate.

Gray water, a surge in trash, dead fish and an overwhelming stench are all signs that, according to the environmental group Blue Water Baltimore, point to a sewage spill in the Inner Harbor.

“Once we started seeing other indicators, the grease balls that can only come from sewage pipes — condoms, tampon applicators floating in the water — we knew for sure that it was sewage,” Tina Meyers of Blue Water Baltimore said.

The group began testing for enterococcus, a disease-causing bacteria found in sewage. On Thursday, they got their initial results.

“The highest was around three times the lowest threshold for human contact,” Meyers said.

The condition of the water forced the Downtown Sailing Center to cancel some of its programs.

“The children like to splash in the water, and that’s not good and can be very dangerous,” an official at the center said.

While Blue Water Baltimore believes waste did make it into the water, city and state officials don’t think the initial bacteria readings support that just yet.

They say the elevated levels of bacteria and trash are normal, especially after storms like the ones we had last week.

“You have dog excrement, cat excrement and even rats and other things that get washed into the storm system and then that flows out into the harbor,” Richard Eskin of the Maryland Department of the Environment said.

Eskin says various factors, including the recent algae bloom, could be causing the smell. But until all test results are in, he and the City Department of Public Works (DPW) cannot pinpoint a cause.

“We need to find the problem to fix it and at this point, we don’t have a specific problem to fix,” Kim Burgess of the DPW said.

“For me it’s not a question of whether it’s a sewage spill. It’s a question of where the sewage is coming from,” Meyers said.

So far, the DPW hasn’t been able to find any sewage leaks in the system. But another big thing on everyone’s mind is the Sailabration next week. Hundreds of people are expected to visit the harbor and the city does not have a plan to take care of the smell.

The city and state say it could still be a couple of days before they get the water quality results.

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