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Baltimore County launches online Water Quality Dashboard tool

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TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Friday announced the launch of a water quality dashboard, a new online tool that allows the public to easily review waterway monitoring data from chemical and bacteria samples collected routinely by the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (DEPS).

“Transparency and accountability are cornerstones of my administration, and this dashboard is yet another example of our commitment to making important data easily accessible for residents,” said County Executive Olszewski. “This up-to-date information about of the health of our neighborhood streams will show trends in water quality and prove useful to everyone from scientists and students to community leaders, boaters and people who just want to enjoy Baltimore County’s beautiful waterways.”

The new online Water Quality Dashboard tool is available on the Baltimore County website here.

DEPS conducts extensive monitoring of Baltimore County’s waterways at regular intervals to measure for pollutants and biological indicators throughout the year, with increased frequency during the warmer months. The data will be posted to the Water Quality Dashboard at least quarterly. The County’s team of natural resource specialists monitor more than 100 specific sites each month, checking for an array of indicators and pollutants such as:

  • Total nitrogen
  • Total phosphorous
  • Total suspended solids
  • E. coli levels
  • Temperature and pH levels

This data is used to indicate the condition of specific waterways, and identify streams that are at risk so that the County can develop informed plans and strategies to reduce pollution and improve water quality. The waterway monitoring program is part of the County’s federal and state mandates related to its Municipal Stormwater (MS4) Discharge Permit, and supports restoration work needed to maintain Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) of specific waterway impairments.

Dashboard Indicates Ecological Health – Not Real-Time Public Health Data

Data is updated periodically and different from the Department of Health’s monitoring of bacteria levels at bathing beaches and popular waterfront fishing and recreation areas. The Department of Health posts results of their water monitoring program on its Water Sampling web page.

It is important to understand that in DEPS’ Water Quality Dashboard, each data point is a snapshot in time, generally taken about once per month, and the dashboard does not provide real-time assessments of water quality or indicate the potential safety of swimming or other water recreation on any given day.

How You Can Help Prevent Pollution

Consistent and regular water quality monitoring is important because what people do on the land can cause ongoing and intermittent water pollution. Everyone lives within a watershed and can play a part in protecting the water quality in local streams and rivers. Everyday habits are important like making sure to dispose of trash properly, picking up litter and pet waste, and reducing lawn pesticides and fertilizers or replacing them with natural and organic alternatives. Home projects can make a major difference, like installing rain gardens, planting trees, and disconnecting downspouts to keep stormwater from rushing into storm drains, which flow directly into local streams unfiltered. Community efforts like tree plantings, stream cleanups and restoration projects deliver lasting positive impacts on stream health.

See Something? Say Something!

Public reports of stream issues are a valuable complement to the County’s scheduled monitoring program. DEPS encourages people to report environmental concerns like trash dumping or wash water discharging into a stream, as well as environmental emergencies like fish kills, or evidence of chemical or sewage spills.

To report a concern, complete the EPS online form, or call 410-887-5683 weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Photos can be emailed to [email protected]. For an environmental emergency, call the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Emergency Response Division 24-hour hotline at 1-866-633-4686. Report suspected sewage discharges to the Baltimore County Department of Public Works and Transportation by calling their 24-hour Bureau of Utilities dispatch line at 410-887-7415.

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

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