State health and environment departments advise residents to avoid contact with Back River water after contamination – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – The state’s health and environment departments are advising residents to avoid contact with Back River water, saying high levels of contaminants could lead to illness.

“The health notice is a necessary and protective step in our broader effort to stabilize the situation and significantly improve the operation and maintenance of Baltimore’s world-class wastewater treatment asset,” the secretary said. to Environment Maryland, Ben Grumbles.

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Herring Run and Moores Run in Baltimore City drain into the Back River, which runs from the city-county line through Essex in southeastern Baltimore County before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.

After learning of independent samples showing elevated levels of bacteria both upstream and downstream of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Maryland Department of Environment began taking weekly samples on Tuesday. At three of the four locations where water was collected, bacteria levels were “above the state’s water contact standard,” state officials said Friday.

Residents of Maryland are advised not to swim or wade in the Back River or drink any of its waters. Anyone who accidentally comes into contact with the water should wash with soap and water as soon as possible, state officials said.

Blue Water Baltimore, an advocacy group, alleged that the Patapsco and Back River sewage treatment plants were discharging untreated sewage into nearby waterways, the health notice said. public was a necessary step.

“That’s why water quality monitoring is so important – from the data, we know the Back River is often dangerous for human contact; we are relieved the state has issued an advisory to protect the many people who recreate in the Back River. We will continue our efforts to ensure that the sources of this pollution are removed as quickly as possible,” said Alice Volpitta, the group’s Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper.

The Baltimore County Health Department will post signs at Cox’s Point Park in Essex to alert people to the public health advisory. The Maryland Department of Environment said the warning is in effect until further notice.

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The Maryland Department of the Environment has released fish consumption advisory for channel catfish, common carp and American eel, telling residents to avoid eating them. They must also avoid eating the “mustard” of blue crabs caught in the river.

In March, Grumbles ordered the Maryland Environmental Service to resume operations at the facility in response to pollution and other compliance issues at the plant, the largest of its kind in the state.

During an inspection of the facility, state officials found that only two of the facility’s 11 main settling tanks were in use, and only one of them was working properly, according to a March 27 directive from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

“Additional data from discharge monitoring reports submitted by the City of Baltimore indicate monthly violations of total suspended solids, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus,” the directive reads.

Last week, Blue Water Baltimore said it was pursuing a federal lawsuit against the city after it failed to reach a settlement agreement. The organization filed a lawsuit last December, claiming the city violated federal water quality law at the two plants.

The Baltimore Department of Public Works asserted that “the continued characterization of discharges from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant as untreated sewage is completely unfactual.”

On April 15, the agency declared that a substance collected near the plant was not solid waste. The sample did not contain any living organisms, “indicating there were no undigested byproducts,” the city agency said.

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DPW said the sample appeared to be similar to one taken March 23 by Blue Water Baltimore. Both gave off a strong odor, which DPW likened to swamp mud.