Community Science in Back River

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Blue Water Baltimore has completed our first Community Science pilot program with residents of the area around Back River.

The Back River Restoration Committee reached out to us last year about ways residents could get involved in the ongoing water quality issues in the river, and last month Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Alice Volpitta and water quality scientists Barbara Johnson and Cody Matteson, who do the regular water testing for Blue Water Baltimore, led a training session to teach residents how to collect their own water samples. They gave out around 30 kits in advance of testing day, May 26, when the kits would be returned for testing in Blue Water’s lab by Barbara and Cody.

On testing day, twenty-eight sample were returned for testing, processed, and the results are below. The samples were tested for enterococci bacteria, which are an indicator of fecal matter in the water.

We’re thrilled to have partnered with the Back River Restoration Committee and all of the residents who turned out and took samples. People in the area clearly care deeply about the health of their river and we were glad to help them gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on beneath the surface. With the success of the pilot, we’re hoping to expand to other areas and hold more trainings, so stay tuned!

A note about the numbers: as with our regular ongoing water testing, we use a statistical method to arrive at the most probable number (MPN) of enterococci in 100 milliliters of water.

These single-day tests can only provide a snapshot of the water quality at the time it was tested. The Code of Maryland Regulations indicates that recreating in waterways with Enterococcus bacteria levels above 130 MPN/100mL carries a higher risk of getting sick from water-borne pathogens.  Additionally, the State of Maryland recommends not coming into contact with natural water bodies for 48 hours after a rainfall event.