State Refuses to Boost Inspections of Co. Creeks, Cites Lack of Resources - Southern Maryland Headline News

State Refuses to Boost Inspections of Co. Creeks, Cites Lack of Resources

By Guy Leonard, The County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—St. Mary's County government officials asked the state recently to increase the bacteria testing in local waters, particularly in creeks where entrepreneurs are looking to start up oyster aquaculture businesses – but the Maryland Department of the Environment has refused, saying that a lack of personnel would doom the effort.

A letter from the department’s director, Robert M. Summers, stated there have been many more requests in the state to more regularly check waterways to ensure they are relatively free from pollutants like fecal coliform bacteria to make sure aquaculture oysters are safe for harvesting and consumption, but surveying the many creeks in St. Mary’s would take too much time and resources.

Moreover, many of the creeks eyed by county government have poor current flows, which mean that once bacteria has infected it, it would take a long time for it to flow out, no matter how many checks were performed.

Creeks such as St. Thomas Creek, Goose Creek, Harper’s Creek, a large portion of St. Jerome’s Creek and St. Inigoes Creek all have some level of shellfish harvesting restriction, some are totally off limits, the letter stated, and are required to be sampled at least twice a month.

“Even if the department were not constrained by time and resources, it is unlikely that more frequent sampling would accelerate the reopening of any of the creeks you mentioned,” Summers wrote to Commissioner President Francis Jack Russell. “Many of these creeks have exhibited poor water quality for years with no trend towards improvement.

“The water circulation is very poor in some creeks and there is little flushing. Pollutants entering the creek leave slowly, if at all.”

Russell said that the state’s answer to the county represented a kind of “catch 22” since the state was pushing for more aquaculture businesses but appeared unwilling to inspect the creeks more frequently where local entrepreneurs wanted to set up operations.

“It’s probably something we’ve got to live with,” said Russell (D-St. George Island). “If they won’t do it then so be it.

“I don’t know where we go from here except the legislative process.”

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