As people are drawn to the waters of the bay for recreation such as sailing, fishing, surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, clean water is an essential component for this fun. Our volunteers and staff collect and analyze water samples for eight shoreline sites each month to keep track of the health of our waters. All of this work takes about 150 hours per yea, but it’s worth it.
Samples are tested for enterococcus, which is a bacteria that can indicate the presence of fecal matter in marine waters. This and other potentially harmful bacteria can reach the bay through sewage spills from treatment plants or boat-waste holding tanks, as well as waste from wildlife and domestic animals. While low levels of enterococcus are expected, when the levels get too high, the water can make people sick.
Recent results show that our bay is safe for recreation in most areas. Indicator bacteria levels at certain sites in the back bay have been measured at times over the years. These levels are partly due to the physical layout of the bay. The back bay’s shallow waters do not get flushed out by the tide as frequently, because they are farther from the bay mouth and tidal channels.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Do your duty and pick up your dog's poop, whether you’re at home, at the park, or on the beach. No matter where you are, dog poop can stick around for up to one year, sending harmful bacteria into storm drains, and eventually to the bay each time it rains.
Cat-owners, don’t flush! Cats sometimes carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that doesn’t hurt them, but that can kill otters. It is estimated to account for 17% of otter deaths each year. Wastewater reclamation facilities don’t kill this parasite, so it’s important to pick up after your cat and put its waste in the trash, instead of flushing it down the toilet.
More about local water health in our 2017 State of the Bay Report: MBNEP.ORG/state-of-the-bay
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