Department of the Environment urges beachgoers to use app to stay informed; annual report shows Maryland beaches are healthy
News Release, Maryland Department of the Environment
BALTIMORE, MD (May 24, 2019) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reminding swimmers that information on conditions at the state’s beaches is available through the Maryland Healthy Beaches app for mobile devices.
“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, information on conditions at the nearly 200 monitored beaches in Maryland is just a tap on a smartphone away,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Maryland beaches continue to get high grades for water quality. We urge everyone to follow our website’s do’s and don’ts for swimmers to stay healthy and waters to keep clean.”
The Department of the Environment’s reminder coincides with Healthy and Safe Swimming Week and the start of the summer beach season. The department’s annual Maryland Healthy Beaches 2019 Progress Report shows Maryland beaches met water quality requirements and were open for swimming with no health-based advisories more than 97 percent of the time last summer. This marked the 14th consecutive year that the rate was 96 percent or greater. The beaches at Ocean City have never been under a closure or advisory since the current monitoring program began in 2000.
The report describes Maryland’s beach monitoring program and efforts to make information on beach conditions readily available. 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 laboratory for analysis. When fecal indicator 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.
The Maryland Healthy Beaches website (www.marylandhealthybeaches.com) 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 mobile device applications and by signing up for email or text alerts.
The Department of the Environment’s website also includes information on Vibrio, bacteria that occur naturally in brackish water such as the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and in salt water, especially during warm weather months. Vibrio infections are relatively rare in Maryland and nationwide. However, when Vibrio or other bacteria come into contact with an open wound they can cause serious infections. Vibrio infections can be particularly dangerous for people with liver disease or weakened immune systems.
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.