It's Safe to Swim at Maryland BeachesIf...


It's Safe to Swim at Maryland Beaches

If you are among the millions of visitors to Maryland beaches each year take heart; it is safe to swim in the water. This may come as a surprise if you read The Sun's July 1 story, "Dirty water, inadequate testing risk beach swimmers' health, group says."

No disease outbreak associated with Maryland recreational beaches has been reported in the past ten years. This is a result of Maryland's successful efforts to identify and eliminate water pollution sources.

Eliminating pollution that could adversely affect bathing beaches coupled with local and state water quality monitoring programs -- assures that Maryland waters are safe for swimmers.

Wastewater treatment plants are one potential source of water contamination. Maryland has worked with local governments to upgrade wastewater treatment plants, and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) ensures that treatment plants meet stringent treatment and disinfection standards.

Ninety-five percent of all municipal wastewater treatment plants -- accounting for 98 percent of all wastewater discharged to Maryland waterways -- are in compliance with Maryland's tough standards. The other 5 percent have no effect on bathing waters.

MDE also routinely surveys shorelines to identify contamination sources that could affect recreational beaches. Department field personnel help identify areas with failing septic systems and businesses or agricultural operations that could pose water quality problems.

During the swimming season, this information is supplemented by water monitoring data collected by local health departments in cooperation with MDE. When shoreline surveys, subsequent investigations or water samples identify problems, they are targeted for corrective action.

Swimmers at Ocean City are protected by monthly monitoring of the resort's beaches. To safeguard these popular waters, the discharge for the Ocean City wastewater treatment plant was located more than one-half mile offshore.

The facility is one of the most rigorously monitored and best performing treatment plants in the state.

But Maryland's efforts to safeguard swimmers do not end there. Almost all recreational beaches in Maryland are near shellfish harvesting waters.

Because people eat -- sometimes raw -- seafood taken from these waters, the water must meet standards much stricter than those for swimming beaches.

Shellfish waters are sampled year-round. If there is any indication shellfish standards could be violated, MDE identifies and corrects the problem before water quality even approaches unsafe levels.

Your July 1 article indicates that environmentalists want government to "eliminate sources of beach pollution." That only makes sense. Maryland's strategy has always been to eliminate and control pollution at the source. Because we do just that, swimmers in Maryland waters should have only one concern -- having the best time possible.

Robert Perciasepe


D8 The writer is Maryland secretary of the environment.

TV and Homework

The State Board of Education wants to require blocking devices on television sets so that the amount of time children watch television can be limited.

The Sun took the position the schools should assign more homework and give more rigorous tests to get students to study more and to watch television less ("School Board in Your Living Room," July 12).

I do not know if the blocking device is a good idea or not. I do know that if teachers assign more homework, the students in question will not do it because teachers cannot go home with students and because many parents do not see to it that homework is done.

The same applies to more rigorous tests. Both of these actions will lower students' grades, and teachers and schools, again, will get the blame for poor performance.

The various service components of society, such as school systems, are constantly being accused of poor performance. They receive the blame and the responsibility of something over which they have no control, lack of good parenting.

Good parenting is the basis of a successful society. This fact has been stated by educators, psychologists, columnists and authors for years. It continues to fall on deaf ears.

The example used in the editorial of more homework and more rigorous tests to reduce television watching is analogous to increasing the medicine dosage for a chronically ill child, when the real problem is that no one is seeing to it that he take the medicine he already had.

If the student is watching television instead of doing homework, what would more homework accomplish? In either case, the child does not benefit.

Problems in our society will not be solved by making the service components responsible for events that occur outside of their realm. Parents have to be responsible for managing the family.

David A. Fisher


Seeds of Hope

I was saddened to see James Hadley's June 28 response to The Sun's front-page story on Rickie Gates.

Mr. Hadley describes himself as a professional who works with individuals and families with psychological problems, including substance abuse. He misinterpreted Mr. Gates' statement and believed he was denying responsibility for his actions.

Rickie Gates' story actually contains the seeds of hope that we, as a society, should seize upon in order to combat the alcohol and drug problems that we face.

It is a story of dependence on alcohol and marijuana (the two most popular drugs in our society); the terrible, devastating, tragic event that occurred as a direct result of that dependence and the recognition, acceptance and recovery of the person responsible for that event.

Alcohol and marijuana did not cause the tragedy; alcoholism and drug dependence did.

Rickie Gates should be held responsible and accountable for his actions and consequences of his actions.

But we as a society need to begin to understand that alcoholism and drug dependence are illnesses that impair judgment and distort thinking.

These are powerful addictions that do not yield to self-will. It is not enough to "just say no."

In the words of an old Chinese proverb -- first a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink and then the drink takes the man.

Rickie Gates is not a "bad man," he is "everyman." There are not those who are good and those who are bad. There are those who develop the disease and those who don't.

Unless we start treating this terrible illness as a major public health problem, instead of a matter of law enforcement, free-will and "just say no," we can never make significant progress.

Robert K. White


The writer, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, is president of the Maryland Addiction and Recovery Coalition.

Prove it

To do less than appoint an independent investigator to conduct a thorough, unbiased and complete inquiry into the White House travel office firings would be intolerable.

The whole episode of summarily firing seven people without hearings or detailed examination, and appointing a relative of the president to take over that office, smacks of nepotism, cronyism and double standards.

How long must taxpayers accept this petty thievery of morality and ethical misconduct by such inept and non-professional staff people in the White House?

How much longer are these Arkansas travelers with their pandering Hollywood idols going to hold our White House and our country in the grips of such open insults to integri ty? When will Attorney General Janet Reno fulfill her oath of office by taking appropriate action?

Attorney General Reno has stated repeatedly she is not a "political" person and not owned by any one or any group. Now is a great time to prove it.

Paul K. Gladfelder


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