Md. Dept. of the Environment releases Healthy Beaches Progress Report
Report coincides with Healthy and Safe Swimming Week
Baltimore, MD (May 25, 2016) – Maryland beaches were open for swimming with no health-based advisories nearly 99 percent of the time last summer, a new report by the Maryland Department of the Environment shows.
The Department’s Maryland Healthy Beaches 2016 Progress Report states that monitored beaches in Maryland were open without an advisory 98.7 percent of the time last summer, marking the fourth straight year that the rate exceeded 98 percent and the 11th 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. It also describes how the Department is working with Salisbury University and the State of Delaware on new “source” tracking research to determine whether pollution at selected beaches is from humans or animals to help refine the understanding of water conditions at those locations.
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 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 through vehicles that include 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.
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 National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is the week before Memorial Day, May 23-29, 2016.
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