Maryland Department of the Environment Works to Protect Drinking Water and Public Health in Baltimore City
BALTIMORE (Sept. 6, 2022) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) continues to work closely with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works to ensure all appropriate public health protections are in place and that actions are taken to address elevated bacteria levels that potentially affect a limited portion of the city’s drinking water system.
MDE is providing regulatory oversight and technical assistance as part of the response to sampling results showing elevated E. coli levels in the water at three locations in West Baltimore. The Baltimore City Department of Public Works has issued boil water advisories as a result of those sampling results.
MDE’s engineering and technical review of the separate lines that transmit water in different areas of the city shows that the potential threat appears to be limited to the area identified in the required and precautionary boil water advisories. MDE worked with Baltimore City to determine appropriate geographic areas for those advisories.
A required boil water advisory was issued September 5 for residents, businesses and other facilities in the Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park neighborhoods where E.coli detections occurred. A precautionary boil water advisory was issued for a larger area of southwestern Baltimore County that is hydraulically connected to the Sandtown area.
Details on specific recommendations on water usage for a boil water advisory are included in the Maryland Department of Health Boil Water Advisory factsheet. The boil water advisory is to remain in effect until the underlying problem has been addressed and there is a reasonable certainty that the water no longer contains pathogenic organisms. MDE, as part of its regulatory oversight, will review such relevant factors as sampling results for bacteria and chlorine levels, and conditions relating to the distribution system to ensure public health is protected before boil water advisories are lifted.
Today, MDE has a team of engineers onsite in the affected community inspecting the distribution system, treatment systems, pumping facilities, and other infrastructure. In the coming days, MDE will also begin inspections at certain treatment facilities.
MDE implements and enforces the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and adopts standards based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rulemaking and science. The department has been in close contact with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, Baltimore City Department of Health and Maryland Department of Health since the initial E. coli results were provided.
The Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM) has raised the State Activation Level to Enhanced to support the Baltimore City water incident. MDEM will continue to hold regular coordination calls with affected jurisdictions.
E. coli bacteria can be found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals. Although most strains are harmless, others can make you sick. Symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. The extent to which total coliforms are present in water can indicate the general quality of that water and the likelihood that the water is contaminated fecally by animal and/or human sources. At this time MDE is not aware of any reported illness related to this incident.
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