Baltimore waters receive failing grade in annual report

BALTIMORE - Baltimore waters received a failing grade in health, according to the Healthy Harbor Report Card, a yearly progress report on efforts to make the Inner Harbor pollution-free by 2020.

Blue Water Baltimore and the Healthy Harbor Initiative released the 2013 report card Wednesday.

"While the failing grade may be discouraging, it serves as an effective call to arms. There are real solutions to the problems that are degrading our waterways and 2013 marked a renewed effort by both public and private partners,” Theodore E. Scott, chairman of the board for Blue Water Baltimore, said in a news release. “The mission to identify and resolve problems is gaining momentum.”

Baltimore waters scored between 51 and 57 percent in overall health, an improvement over the 2012 scores, which ranged from 40 percent to 42 percent.

Water quality scores were lowest in Baltimore’s streams and Inner Harbor. Scores were highest in the downstream portions of the tidal Patapsco River, closest to the Chesapeake Bay.

But turbidity scored higher than expected, garnering an A. Baltimore streams are usually clear unless it is raining, and increases in turbidity are brief and typically occur during storms when sediment is flushed quickly into the Harbor, the report states.

Dissolved oxygen also scored higher than expected in the tidal Patapsco River because low dissolved oxygen events are short and not always captured by the sampling program.

The report card also shows significant declines in the amount of sewage flowing into the Harbor and casts a hopeful outlook for the effects of the city’s stormwater fee, implemented last year.

The city should remain focused on storm drain inspections, green infrastructure projects and community engagement efforts, the report states.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes. D-Baltimore, called the Inner Harbor “one of Baltimore’s greatest treasures.”

“The Inner Harbor is one of Baltimore’s greatest treasures and we must join together to preserve and protect it for generations to come,” Sarbanes said. “Each year, the Healthy Harbor Report Card keeps track of the progress we’ve made and the work that must still be done. A clean, swimmable, fishable harbor will be an incredible environmental and economic asset to our vibrant city.” 

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