Md. Dept. of the Environment releases annual Healthy Beaches Progress Report

Md. Dept. of the Environment releases annual Healthy Beaches Progress Report

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Jay Apperson

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jay.apperson@maryland.gov

Md. Dept. of the Environment releases annual Healthy Beaches Progress Report

Report coincides with Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, start of summer beach season

Baltimore, MD (May 25, 2017) – Maryland beaches were open for swimming with no health-based advisories nearly 99 percent of the time for the fifth year in a row last summer, a Maryland Department of the Environment report shows.

The Department’s Maryland Healthy Beaches 2017 Progress Report states that 185 monitored beaches in Maryland were open without an advisory 98.9 percent of the time last summer, marking the fifth straight year that the rate exceeded 98 percent and the 12th consecutive year that the rate was 96 percent or greater.

“The Department of the Environment partners with local governments to make a day at the beach a fun and healthy time for Maryland families,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles. “Beach conditions are monitored from Western Maryland lakes to the Ocean City surf, with updated information readily available on the Maryland Healthy Beaches website and through smartphone apps. We also urge everyone to follow the website’s do’s and don’ts for swimmers to stay healthy and waters to keep clean.”

The report describes Maryland’s beach monitoring program and efforts to make information on beach conditions readily available. The Department of the Environment works with local health departments to make sure water quality is monitored. The department sets water quality standards and assures conformity in the program statewide. Prior to the start of beach season on Memorial Day, local health departments collect water samples from beaches and perform surveys to identify any nearby pollution sources that might adversely affect water quality. If any pollution sources are found they are corrected when possible.

Local health departments determine where, when and how often a beach is sampled. The health departments continue to collect water samples during the season. Samples are sent to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene laboratory for analysis. When fecal indicator bacteria standards are exceeded, the results are reported to local health departments so that beach managers can issue an advisory. An advisory is a recommendation against swimming or activities where submersion under water is likely. Beaches are only closed when the waters are affected by a sewage spill or overflow or other harmful contaminants.

Beach advisories and closures are shared with the public in many ways, including the Maryland Healthy Beaches website (www.MarylandHealthyBeaches.com).That website provides color-coded status reports on beaches throughout the state and daily updates on rainfall, which causes runoff that can affect water quality. Swimmers can also receive information through Maryland Healthy Beaches smartphone applications and by signing up for email or text alerts.

The Department of the Environment’s website also includes information on Vibrio, bacteria that occur naturally in brackish water such as the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and in salt water, especially during warm weather months. Vibrio infections are relatively rare in Maryland and nationwide. However, when Vibrio or other bacteria come into contact with an open wound they can cause serious infections. Vibrio infections can be particularly dangerous for people with liver disease or weakened immune systems.

Although swimming in natural waters is not risk-free there are several things you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting sick.

  • Avoid swimming near storm drains along the beach and within 48 hours of a heavy rain event, or until the water clears.
  • Try not to swallow beach water.
  • Shower or bathe after swimming.
  • Dogs may not be allowed at some beaches.  Dispose of dog waste properly (bring small plastic bags with you.)
  • Avoid swimming if you feel ill or have open cuts or sores. If water contact can’t be avoided, cover your open cut or sore with waterproof bandages.
  • If they are available, use diaper-changing stations in restroom facilities, or change diapers away from the water’s edge.
  • Remember to properly dispose of used diapers.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
  • Take all trash with you offsite in a bag.
  • Volunteer in local beach cleanup efforts.
  • Do not feed seagulls or other wildlife.
  • When boating, use an approved marina pump-out station for boat waste disposal.
  • Report any unsafe or unhealthy conditions to a lifeguard or beach manager.
  • Visit the Current Conditions page on marylandhealthybeaches.com, or your county website, for water quality information.

The Secretaries of Health and Mental Hygiene, Environment and Natural Resources remind all Marylanders that this week is National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week.

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