Any time, any place, up-to-date beach information is just a few taps away with the new Maryland Healthy Beaches smartphone app.
The app – available for free – provides information on conditions at your favorite Maryland beaches. The app is now available for Android at Google Play and is coming soon for iPhone at the App Store.
The status of Maryland’s swimming beaches is also posted on the Maryland Healthy Beaches websiteon the Current Conditionspage.The site includes a revised interactive map with color coding to show any health-based advisories for a particular beach.
The web site also includes daily updates on rainfall for beaches. You should avoid swimming in natural waters within 48 hours of a heavy rain event because potentially harmful bacteria concentrations might rise due to polluted stormwater runoff.
You can sign up for email alerts and, new this year, a text messaging system to let you know if your favorite beach has a notification.
The website also provides tips on staying healthy at the beach.
MDE works with local health departments to make sure water quality is monitored. When water quality samples collected from a beach area do not meet state and federal water quality criteria, an advisory is posted. MDE 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.
Your local health departments determine where, when and how often your 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 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.
There are nearly 200 monitored beaches in Maryland. During the 2013 beach season, Maryland’s monitored beaches were open for swimming 98.7 percent of the time. Beaches are only closed when the waters are affected by a sewage spill or overflow or other harmful contaminants.
The standards used for recreational waters and for issuing advisories were developed by EPA, and they are based on risk analysis and the probability of the potential risk of illness. When the bacteria standard is exceeded at your local beach, the risk of illness from full water contact is increased.
Although swimming in natural waters is not risk-free there are severalthings you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting sick from swimming in natural waters. You should find out if the area you want to swim in is monitored regularly and posted for closures advisories and avoid swimming at beaches after a heavy rainfall event.