Water Blog

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.

David’s First Blitz – Getting Your Feet Wet for Clean Water

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On a bright morning in May intrepid volunteer David Farkas pulled on the waders for his first ever outfall screening blitz with Blue Water Baltimore …

Our screening blitz volunteers perform a vital role in helping us identify pollution entering our waterways through Baltimore City’s stormwater system, whether in the form of sewage, water main breaks, or various other kind of none-too-pleasant discharges. They’re out there uncovering Baltimore’s hidden secrets, both our forgotten waterways or what’s lingering in our pipes.

“I spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in or on the water,” says David. “So I do have a personal stake in this. I have some free time in the summer and typically spend it outside anyway, so I figured I might as well do some good while I’m at it.”

“This is us wading through the stream to find outfalls – the places where our pipes empty out into our waterways. I’m carrying the trusty ‘sampling stick’ to take samples of the water quality when we find one. It was surprising to learn that the city and county do not have up-to-date maps of the outfalls. It makes it all the more important that Blue Water Baltimore is out there paying attention to this issue.”

“Found one! Here I am taking a sample from the first outfall we came across – from the corrugated steel pipe. First I take the sample …”

“… then measure the width of the pipe and the depth of the flow. After that I did the ping pong ball test for rate of flow. It’s sadly not pictured, but basically you drop the ball in the water and time how long it takes to float down to a certain point.

“I was surprised that I got to see sewage on my first time out when we found a sewer line stack with its cover lying off to the side. I was able to peer down the sewer stack and the smell was not … great. It’s troubling because this was clearly in a flood plain. Thankfully the stream appeared to be fairly healthy other than that. It was nice to see that there was life in the water – that it was generally clear and had critters in it. That was a nice surprise.”

“I played in a stream in the woods behind my house as a kid, and of course we never gave a thought to the quality of the water. I’m sure it’s the same for this stream. This monitoring work is valuable because the water will eventually get to larger rivers, the harbor, and the Chesapeake Bay. Since there’s no accurate map of outfalls it’s important for just simply knowing what’s out there, not to mention the water quality testing itself. All stakeholders can make better decisions when they’re based on accurate data.”

Want to be a part of our Outfall Screening Blitz monitoring? It’s like a secret club for uncovering Baltimore’s secrets! To get started, sign up for one of our Pollution 101 training sessions.