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High Bacteria Readings for Local Waters

Mc swimming 8-17-12 008Four swim areas in Rhode River tested unsafe for bacteria this week, with water at the Whitemarsh Community Dock and Beach six times above safe levels. That’s somewhat surprising since it was a relatively dry week. Sorry Whitemarsh bathers. Take precautions.

Otherwise, most swim areas throughout Anne Arundel County were healthy and safe to swim, judging by bacteria monitoring.

For the first time this summer I have listed (below) high bacteria readings for upstream and midstream testing sites on Mill Creek and Dividing Creek on the Magothy River. These creeks traditionally test very high for bacteria, for unknown reasons. The area closest to the Magothy this week had safe readings but upstream levels were high.  One of my good friends lives midstream on Mill Creek and says she still swims despite the creek’s history. You go, girl.

Remember, though, the county health department and Maryland Department of Environmental caution bathers not to swim for 48 hours after a rain storm of half-inch or more. So regardless of test results this week, if we get rain this weekend, you might want to stay out of the water.

Swim areas with unsafe bacteria levels this week:


Oyster Harbor – 324


Forked Creek - 166

Mill Creek (upstream) - 1000

Mill Creek (midstream) – 312

Dividing Creek (upstream) – 980


Glen Isle – 384

Londontowne Beach 5 - 110

Pine Whiff – 136

Davidsonville Wildlife Sanctuary – 180


Whitemarsh Community Dock and Beach – 686

Riverclub Community Dock and Beach - 204

Holly Hills - 130

Cadle Creek Community Dock – 130


Galesville Pier – 106

Enterococci counts are expressed as cfu or colony-forming units.  Greater than 104 cfu/100 ml are considered elevated bacteria levels.

Enterococci are bacteria that are found in the GI tract of warm-blooded animals, which includes all birds and mammals.  Their presence in surface water indicates recent contamination with fecal waste.       

Both the county health department and a network of volunteers test over 100 public beaches and other areas around the county for bacteria. The results from the county tests are put online here, and for the volunteer tests here for Severn and Magothy rivers, here for South River, and here for Rhode/West River.  All the sites listed above were tested by Watershed Stewards.

Rain washes human and animal waste from the landscape. For that reason, county and state officials warn residents not to swim or come into contact with water for 48 hours after a significant rain.

Bacteria that is ingested can cause an upset stomach. In some cases more harmful bacteria coming into contact with open wounds can cause serious infection.

Have fun, stay safe!

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications Coordinator


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