Volume 14, Issue 33 ~ August 17 - August 23, 2006


Bay Alert No. 77: A Warning for Politicians, Too

Not only swimmers but also candidates for re-election could be at risk from the bacteria multiplying in Bay waters like a B-movie scourge.

The second closing of Sandy Point State Park this summer due to pollution offers a scary reminder of what we and our political leaders have allowed to happen.

No longer is the Bay’s condition a matter of aesthetics or another argument in timeworn debates about protecting crabs, fish and aquatic creatures.

It’s us, the human violators of Chesapeake Bay, who stand to be become ill, or worse, from contact with these infectious waters.

Baysiders with any sense have learned not to flop in the water after gullywasher rains in the summer. Why? Because runoff carries pesticides, fertilizers, sewage and animal wastes into bath-warm water that brews germy stews as well as a Petri dish.

Since it barely has rained in Chesapeake Country in recent days, the latest closing tells us that the threatening bacteria at Sandy Point is too prevalent to have diminished or to have been washed away.

The flashing No Swimming signs off of Rt. 50 remind Marylanders and tourists at vacation time about a real threat at one of the few public water access points in Anne Arundel County.

The signs also are an admission of guilt — though some in state government would rather embrace the Ehrlich administration tactic of blaming the messengers.

We noted in a letter from Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Kendl Philbrick to Sen. Roy Dyson the references to a recent page one Washington Post story warning of beach contamination.

Philbrick observed that his department had taken great pains “to point out the many positive aspects of the Maryland beach program … None of the positive elements of the program, however, were mentioned in the article. Thus, in our opinion, the article was quite one-sided.”

The epic 1,600-word letter goes on to spell out all the good things being done, like implementation of the Flush Tax, which will begin to tackle some of the sewage treatment problems.

Yet the letter, like most governmental efforts, lacks an urgency to match the problems we’re seeing at Sandy Point.

There’s palpable anger in the electorate about failure to protect one of Maryland’s most valuable resources. That anger is among the reasons why incumbents, Republicans and Democrats alike, could find troubled waters this election year beginning with Maryland’s September 12 primary.

In its beach warnings, DNR likes to say the problem bacteria comes from warm-blooded animals.

Certain warm-blooded animals need to be warned, too: elected officials on whose watch portions of Chesapeake Bay have become too toxic to touch.

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