MRC bacteria testing reveals unsafe swimming beaches

MD-mrc checks water 3x-062515

Special to The Dorchester Banner/Sam Morse
Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy conducts regular testing for bacteria levels in local waterways.

EASTON — Bacteria sampling conducted by Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) during a storm event on June 3 and June 4 yielded failed tests at three sites: Tunis Mills Bridge, Bill Burton Pier, and Pinks Pond. These sites were re-sampled on June 10; the re-test results were within acceptable levels.

On May 18, 2015, the Miles River Yacht Club had an unsafe bacteria reading. Retesting on May 26 yielded acceptable results.

MRC began bacteria sampling in 2014 at recreational swimming sites on Midshore rivers. Each site is tested at least monthly using the EPA safe swimming standard of 104 Enterococcus MPN/100 mL water. A test result above this level requires a ban on direct water contact and public swimming. When there is a failing test result, MRC retests the site during the following week.

MRC tests the following sites:
Choptank River
• Windy Hill Landing, Trappe
• The Strand, Oxford
• Bill Burton Pier, Talbot County side
• Sailwinds Park, Cambridge
• Pinks Pond off Hambrooks Bay, Cambridge
Miles River
• Tunis Mills Bridge
• St. Michaels Harbor
• Miles River Yacht Club, St. Michaels
Wye River
• Drum Point, Wye Island
• Wye Landing, Wye Mills
Eastern Bay
• Crab Alley Bay, Chester
Chesapeake Bay
• Terrapin Park, Stevensville

As data becomes available, sampling results are available to the public on the Waterkeeper Swim Guide website, The swim guide is updated daily and a Swim Guide app is available.

Common problems associated with swimming in contaminated water are ear, eye and skin infections. Diarrhea and other water-related illnesses can occur from accidentally swallowing contaminated water. Disease-causing microorganisms can also enter the body through cuts and scrapes.

High bacteria counts can be precipitated by storm events or periods of rain, which cause harmful runoff from septic systems, wastewater treatment facilities, runoff from livestock operations, and storm water. Improper discharge of sewage from marine vessels is another significant source of bacteria. High readings are often found after heavy weekend recreational boat traffic.

In May 2015, MRC received a funding commitment from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to purchase a pump-out boat for the Miles and Wye Rivers and to hire a captain to run the vessel. This will provide an opportunity for the many boats that visit these rivers to easily and properly dispose of waste rather than pump it into our rivers. The pump-out boat will be docked at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. This is the first essential step in obtaining the status of a “No Discharge Zone” for these waterways.

Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and celebration of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Miles River, and Wye River watersheds.

For more information, visit, e-mail, or phone 443-385-0511.

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