BALTIMORE, WJZThe state health and environmental departments advise residents to avoid the Back River because of high levels of contaminants. This could lead to illness.
The health advisory is an important and protective step in our larger effort, Ben Grumbles, Maryland Environment secretary, said.
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Moores Run and Herring Run in Baltimore City flow into the Back River. This river stretches from the city line to Essex in Southeast Baltimore County and then empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
After receiving independent samples showing high levels of bacteria downstream and upstream of Back River Wastewater Treatment Plants, the Maryland Department of Environment began taking weekly samples on Tuesday. Officials said Friday that bacteria levels at three of four locations where water had been collected were above the state’s water contact standard.
Marylanders are asked not to swim in the Back River, wade in it, or drink water from its banks. Officials from the state advised that anyone who accidentally comes in contact with water should wash it with soap and water as soon possible.
To inform people of the advisory, the Baltimore County Department of Health will place signs at Coxs Point Park, Essex. The warning will remain in effect until further notice according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Grumbles directed the Maryland Environmental Service in March to take control of the facility to address pollution and other compliance issues. The plant was the largest of its type in Maryland.
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According to state officials, only two of the 11 primary settlement tanks were in use during an inspection. One of those tanks was not operating correctly. Maryland Department of the Environment, March 27, 2007 directive.
Additional data from Baltimore City’s Discharge Monitoring Reports indicate monthly violations of total suspended solids and total nitrogen, according to the directive.
Blue Water Baltimore, an advocacy group has claimed that both the Patapsco (and Back River Wastewater Treat Plants) have been discharging untreated wastewater into nearby waterways.
Blue Water Baltimore stated last week that it is pursuing a federal lawsuit against Baltimore, despite failing to reach a settlement. The suit was filed last December by Blue Water Baltimore, alleging that the city violated both the federal Clean Water Act.
Baltimore Department of Public Works claimed that the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges are untreated wastewater.
On April 15, the city agency declared that a substance taken near the plant wasn’t solid waste. The city agency stated that the sample contained no living organisms. This indicates that there were no undigested byproducts.
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DPW stated that the sample was similar to the one taken by Blue Water Baltimore on March 23. Both samples gave off a strong odor that DPW compared to marsh mud.