Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides announced that bacteria warning signs will be posted in both English and Spanish at two locations in the city where high enterococci bacteria levels have been identified.
Earlier this summer, the Back Creek and Spa Creek Conservancies and Capital Stand-up Paddleboarding at Sarles Marina partnered with Operation Clearwater, located at Anne Arundel Community College, to test the bacteria levels at a number of locations within the Back and Spa Creek watersheds.
Water quality testing results from several of the locations around the city indicated high enterococci bacteria levels, the bacterial measurement that is an indicator of fecal contamination in water samples. Enterococci bacteria are naturally occurring in the intestines of all warm bodied animals, including dogs, geese, raccoons, and humans. The bacteria are also naturally occurring in food and soils. As the bacteria are easy to detect, they are frequently used as an indicator of water quality.
The samples collected near the Chesapeake Children’s Museum and South Cherry Grove Avenue in Annapolis, during the months of June and July of 2016, stand out as sites with high levels of enterococci bacteria. In an effort to determine if the bacterial source was human, additional samples were collected on Thursday, August 11, 2016 from both sites. These samples were sent to Source Molecular, a lab located in Miami, Florida, for Microbial Source Tracking (MST).
While there was no human fecal contamination in the water samples, the August 11 analytical results released by the Spa Creek Conservancy show 460 Colony Forming Units (CFU) for the Chesapeake Children’s Museum sampling location and 1,200 CFU for the South Cherry Grove Avenue site. Safe swimming levels are 104 CFU or lower.
For each notification of high bacteria test results, City Utilities Division conducted inspections and determined that high bacteria levels were not related to leaks or spills from the city’s sanitary sewer system.
The warning signs are posted at the stream crossing footbridges at South Cherry Grove and the Children’s Museum. The signs recommend that individuals not swim in that area within 48 hours of a rain event due to predicted high bacteria levels. The signs read as follows:
- Warning: After a rainfall, no swimming, no direct water contact for at least 48 hours due to predicted high bacteria levels
- Adviso: Despues de una lluvia, no nadir, no contacto directo de agua durante al menos 48 horas debido a que predijo altas nivelas de bacterias
The Anne Arundel County Health Department does not recommend swimming in any natural bodies of water within 48 hours of a rain event due to predicted high bacteria levels. Rain washing over land on its way to creeks and streams picks up entercocci bacteria as it washes over animal fecal matter. According to the Anne Arundel County Health Department, the principal health problems associated with high levels of bacteria are ear, eye and skin infections. Diarrhea and other water related illnesses can occur from accidentally swallowing contaminated water.