OCEAN CITY –Wondering if local waterways are safe for swimming?
There’s an app for that.
As it has for the past several years, Assateague Coastal Trust monitors waterways around Ocean City weekly to update the smartphone application Waterkeeper Swim Guide. The app lets users know if local waters are safe to swim in.
“All of the locations we do for Swim Guide we do because these are areas people water recreate,” Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips said.
With the help of David D’Alessandro, an intern from Salisbury University, Phillips monitors the water at seven locations around Ocean City. While Worcester County checks the levels of bacteria at the ocean beaches, Phillips focuses on other areas people tend to use the water.
“So many people recreate back here in the back bays,” she said, “and the county doesn’t have the resources to monitor back here.”
Locations include Ayres Creek, the base of the Route 90 bridge and the area near the Beauchamp Road boat ramp, among others. Phillips says she’s selected particular areas because they’re highly used or because of the surrounding environment. The water near the Route 90 bridge, for example, is near the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant and is also frequented by water enthusiasts.
“This gives us a picture of the lower end of the St. Martin’s River,” Phillips said. “It’s also a popular kayak route.”
Each Wednesday, she and D’Alessandro spend between three and three-and-a-half hours on a boat gathering samples from each of the locations. D’Alessandro first measures water clarity, salinity and oxygen levels with a water quality monitoring meter. He then collects two samples of water from each location. One will be tested to determine levels of Enterococci bacteria while the other will be tested for nutrients.
D’Alessandro, a chemistry major, says he enjoys being able to apply his studies to an area he grew up in.
“Most people do internships at big corporations,” he said. “Name brand stuff. To do something like this where it’s in your backyard is rewarding.”
The results of the water monitoring are typically available each Thursday, when Phillips passes the information on to the smartphone app. She also posts water quality results from the areas her organization monitors as well as from the ocean on the Assateague Coastal Trust website, www.actforbays.org.
“It’s one-stop shopping,” she said.
Generally water quality is fine for swimming in the bays around Ocean City, but Phillips says after a heavy rain levels can be a bit offsetting. When that occurs, the app will advise swimmers.
Of the areas Assateague Coastal Trust monitors, the only one that commonly has high levels of Enterococci is Ayres Creek.
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Phillips said, adding that she’d sent water samples from the area to the Maryland Department of the Environment. “We’re hoping the county and state will do some sampling.”
For more information on the water quality monitoring program or the app, visit www.actforbays.org.