Baltimore County

Baltimore County issues water quality advisory for Back River at Cox Point Park


Take precautions if you plan to spend time in or around Back River in the vicinity of Cox Park this July Fourth weekend.


The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services issued a water quality advisory Friday for the river, which is adjacent to and downstream from the Back River Wastewater Treatment plant, due to high levels of bacteria from a recent sampling.

Direct contact with the water could be harmful, according to a news release, and health officials are encouraging residents to take precautions, such as avoiding exposing open cuts or bandaged wounds to the water.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski had directed the county’s environmental health specialists and natural resource specialists to coordinate enhanced monitoring of Back River in response to recent public health concerns around water quality in sections of Back River, said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Baltimore County health officer.

“As residents prepare to observe the Fourth of July holiday, we want to be sure they are taking every precaution in and around these waterways,” he said.

In April, the Maryland Department of the Environment deemed Back River unsafe for drinking, swimming and human contact after sampling indicated that bacteria levels were elevated beyond the state threshold. Signage was placed at Cox’s Point Park warning visitors to wash with soap and water if they came into contact with the river.

The county then removed the signage after it determined that bacteria levels had improved, Erica Palmisano, a spokeswoman for Olszewski, said last month.

The county is working to post informational signs at Cox’s Point and other locations warning swimmers against entering the water with open wounds and urging them to wash after contacting the water, in addition to warning of elevated bacteria levels following rainstorms, she said.


The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Dundalk, which is owned by Baltimore City and processes sewage and wastewater from across the city and much of Baltimore County, has not been properly maintained, state inspectors and environmental groups say. It is failing to properly filter bacteria and pollution before releasing water into the river, they say.

The Morning Sun

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Residents are always encouraged to:

· Avoid direct contact with waterways for at least 48 hours after rainfalls;

· Watch for cloudy or discolored waters;

· Avoid exposing open cuts or bandaged wounds to the water;


· Avoid getting water in your nose and mouth;

· Always shower immediately after swimming and wash your hands thoroughly before eating.

In addition to routine seasonal sampling conducted by the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Services, biologists from the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability’s Watershed Management and Monitoring section are monitoring additional locations in upper Back River.