BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Some of what’s best about a Maryland summer involves water.
But a new study reveals that harmful bacteria is being carried in some Maryland’s streams and waterways, enough in some cases to make people sick.
“Definitely not safe for contact recreation,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation senior scientist Doug Myers tells WJZ’s Alex DeMetrick. “And in some cases it can really make people sick.”
In urban areas like Baltimore, heavy rains routinely overwhelm sewer lines, polluting streams like the Jones Falls. Harmful bacteria is also entering some rural and suburban waterways after strong downpours, according to a survey of 40 streams by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“This bacteria sampling and the publication of the results is helping us get the word out about that and put some real numbers behind it,” Myers says.
The sampling was done by volunteers who collected water after heavy rains. A lab then did analysis. For Bird River residents Robert and Janet Terry, the results from the river and the streams that feed it in Baltimore County were eye-opening.
“It’s alarming to see the amount of bacteria that is coming in,” Janet said.
Some of the most polluted water passes under Route 40.
“We’re finding extraordinary amounts of bacteria in the water, especially in the Honey Go Run and White Marsh Run higher up,” Robert added.
After heavy rain, White Marsh Run is 400 times above safe levels for fecal contamination.
Glade Run in Frederick County is 324 times above.
Cascade Falls in Howard County is 304 times above.
“We’re concerned about our kids, we’re concerned about our kids in the tributaries, who love to play in those waters,” Janet said.
The sources of the pollution is believed to be a combination of human waste from septic or sewer systems, as well as animal waste washed off the land.