Weekly Bathing Beach Water Samples

Natural Bathing Beach Areas

Worcester County has approximately 30 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean- 9 miles of ocean beach in Ocean City and 21 miles on Assateague Island. Twenty miles of coastal beach is easily accessible to the public and thousands of visitors swim in these waters daily during the summer.

There is also a public swimming area on the Chincoteague Bay at Public Landing, 6 miles east of Snow Hill. Many other bodies of water in Worcester County are also used for recreational purposes, such as the Isle of Wight Bay, St Martin's River, Assawoman Bay and Pocomoke River.

Sampling Program

During the bathing beach season, the county samples 5 different public bathing areas. Samples are collected every Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and are tested for enterococcus bacteria. Results are available on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A running geometric mean of each site, using a minimum of 5 samples taken over a 30-day period, is calculated. For enterococcus, the geometric mean should not exceed 35 organisms per 100 ml (35 MPN), with no single sample exceeding 104 organisms per 100 ml. Enterococcus serves as the sole indicator for evaluating water quality and determining beach advisories. An advisory is issued for a sampling site, if bacterial levels exceed the above state standards.

Pollution, Water Quality, and Monitoring

Good beach water quality is important for the safety and health of swimmers. Water quality can deteriorate due to pollution caused by runoff after storm events, trash, debris, or even sewage. Sewage sources include bypasses from sewage pumping stations, combined stormwater sewers, and sewage spills. Other sources that may cause poor water quality at beaches include failing septic systems, boat waste discharges, and wastes originating from pets, wildlife and farm animals that may runoff into the waters after storm events.

Disease-causing microorganisms or pathogens occurring naturally or associated with untreated sewage and animal waste may potentially pose a health threat to swimmers. These microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye and can be found in the form of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or worms. Direct exposure to pathogenic organisms might cause illnesses such as gastroenteritis, with symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and rashes. Because the number of potential pathogens is too vast to monitor individually, indicator organisms are monitored and used to assess recreational water quality. Indicator organisms such as Enterococci and E. coli are two types of bacteria commonly found in the gut of all warm-blooded animals and are use to indicate a recent source of pollution in recreational waters.

Follow these practices to help keep your beach water safe:

If you would like additional information regarding the sampling program or sample results, please contact Cindy Serman at 410.632.1220, ext. 1608. You can also visit www.MarylandHealthyBeaches.org for more information

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