Precautions for Contact With Impaired Waters

There are many different ways that people can enjoy Baltimore’s natural waterways – strolling along our stream valley parks, sailing and kayaking the harbor, and exploring the flora and fauna in our streams. We want people to safely enjoy our waterways, but pollution, especially fecal bacteria, can pose safety and health risks.

What Are Fecal Bacteria?

Fecal bacteria are microscopic single-celled organisms found in the wastes of warm-blooded animals. Their presence in water is used to assess the safety of water for body-contact recreation and consumption of crabs and fish. Several of Baltimore’s waterways are designated as impaired for fecal bacteria by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

One major source of harmful bacterial is fecal contamination, which can come from diapers, feces from pets, rats or wildlife, sanitary sewer overflows, illicit discharges and illegal hookups, and storm water runoff.

How Are Bacteria Monitored?

DPW measures fecal bacteria at twenty-three stations – these are listed in Table 3 of the MS4 Annual Report.

What Are The Health Risks?

Excessive amounts of fecal bacteria in surface water used for recreation can create an increased risk of illness to humans. Infections due to contaminated recreation waters include gastrointestinal, respiratory, eye, ear, nose, throat, and skin diseases.

What Precautions Should I Take?

  • Heed posted advisories or closings.
  • Wash with soap and warm water after coming in contact with the water.
  • Stay out of the water for 48 hours following a significant rain.
  • Do not swallow stream or harbor water and try not to get it in your mouth.
  • Do not go into the water if you have diarrhea.

What Can I Do To Prevent Pollution?

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION! Everyone can play a role in improving Baltimore’s streams and harbors. Here are a few simple things that you can do:

  • Pick up waste from your pets and dispose of it in the trash.
  • Properly dispose of litter/trash.
  • Do not attract duck, geese, or seagulls by feeding them.
  • Do not dump anything into a storm drain.
  • Report spills or any problems that you see in the waterways – call 311 or download and use the FREE “Baltimore 311″ app.
  • Get involved and volunteer in local shoreline and stream clean-up efforts.
  • When boating, use an approved marina pump-out station for boat waste disposal.

Where Can I Get More Information?