Ad­vo­cates say new har­bor mon­i­tor will im­prove data

De­vice to pro­vide real-time in­for­ma­tion about pol­lu­tion oc­cur­ring in city wa­ter­ways

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Scott Dance sdance@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ss­dance

En­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates say the best data on In­ner Har­bor wa­ter qual­ity comes in snap­shots — sam­ples taken ev­ery other week.

But a new mon­i­tor to be placed at the mouth of the Jones Falls, part of a White House ini­tia­tive to re­vi­tal­ize Bal­ti­more’s en­vi­ron­ment, will pro­vide de­tail on pol­lu­tants en­ter­ing the har­bor by the minute.

Ad­vo­cates say that could im­prove their un­der­stand­ing of how pol­lu­tion flows through lo­cal wa­ter­ways and help show city res­i­dents the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Hav­ing a real-time de­vice so we can see the trends through­out the day, through­out the week and through­out the year will give us a bet­ter idea of what’s flow­ing into the har­bor and when that’s hap­pen­ing,” said Adam Lindquist, di­rec­tor of the Healthy Har­bor Ini­tia­tive.

On Fri­day, the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency an­nounced plans to in­stall the mon­i­tor early next year. Of­fi­cials gath­ered in West Bal­ti­more to un­veil the ini­tia­tive, part of a pack­age of pro­grams de­signed to help im­prove neigh­bor­hoods and stim­u­late the econ­omy.

Agen­cies are call­ing the mon­i­tor the na­tion’s first “Vil­lage Blue” sta­tion, mod­eled af­ter an EPA pro­gram called “Vil­lage Green” that is fo­cused on boost­ing aware­ness of air pol­lu­tion.

In­stru­ments will mea­sure wa­ter tem­per­a­ture, salin­ity, oxy­gen con­tent, pH, clar­ity and, even­tu­ally, lev­els of ni­tro­gen pol­lu­tion. The data will be trans­mit­ted di­rectly to an EPA web­site be­ing de­signed for the av­er­age per­son to un­der­stand.

“This ini­tia­tive will pro­vide the pub­lic with ac­cess to and un­der­stand­ing of wa­ter qual­ity data they can use in a num­ber of im­por­tant ways,” EPA re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor Shawn M. Garvin said in a state­ment.

“The in­for­ma­tion will help peo­ple be­come bet­ter stew­ards of their lo­cal wa­ter­ways and take ac­tions to pro­tect their health by re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to con­tam­i­nants,” Garvin said.

The data is sim­i­lar to what lo­cal ad­vo­cacy group Blue Wa­ter Bal­ti­more al­ready col­lects. Its sam­ples are used to mon­i­tor for ma­jor sewage leaks or other con­tam­i­na­tion, and the data is sum­ma­rized ev­ery year in an an­nual re­port card pub­lished by the Healthy Har­bor Ini­tia­tive.

In 2015, the In­ner Har­bor, Jones Falls and tidal Pat­ap­sco River re­ceived fail­ing grades for a third straight year. The re­sults are chal­leng­ing a goal to make the har­bor swimmable and fish­able by 2020.

The new in­stru­ments, ex­pected to be in­stalled on a foot­bridge near the Pier Six Pav­il­ion and on Mr. Trash Wheel in the spring, will show how har­bor wa­ter qual­ity changes amid ma­jor rain­storms, strong winds or even sunny weather.

At the lo­ca­tion where the Jones Falls meets the Pat­ap­sco River, the data also could show how much pol­lu­tion the stream is in­tro­duc­ing to the river. There aren’t any in­stru­ments mea­sur­ing the flow and vol­ume of the Jones Falls, said Alice Vol­pitta, a wa­ter qual­ity man­ager for Blue Wa­ter.

While the or­ga­ni­za­tion posts its most re­cent wa­ter qual­ity data on its Har­bor Alert web­site, the new mon­i­tor will pro­vide even more up-to-date in­for­ma­tion for any­one whomight be plan­ning to kayak or is cu­ri­ous how weather is af­fect­ing wa­ter qual­ity.

“This is the first time we’re re­ally go­ing to have an idea of what’s hap­pen­ing in that zone,” Vol­pitta said.

The EPA is ex­pected to launch the Vil­lage Blue web­site next sum­mer, and will also add sig­nage near the wa­ter mon­i­tor to ex­plain what it is mea­sur­ing, said Mary Kay Fo­ley, di­rec­tor of the USGS’ Mary­landDelaware-DC Wa­ter Science Cen­ter.

Other pro­grams within the larger ini­tia­tive in­clude ex­pand­ing a wildlife refuge in the Ma­sonville Cove area of Brook­lyn to cover the en­tire Mid­dle Branch wa­ter­shed and build­ing “school­yard habi­tats” to serve as out­door class­rooms at 10 city schools.

The projects are be­ing backed with about $750,000 in fed­eral grants.

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