SOLOMONS, Md. — The Chesapeake Bay is one of the biggest attractions in Southern Maryland. Its popularity revolves around crabbing, fishing, boating, and of course, swimming. However, The Chesapeake Bay has not historically had the best track record when it comes to cleanliness.
A poll of 1,290 readers on TheBayNet.com asking whether or not people enjoy swimming in the Chesapeake Bay showed that 81% of people do not.
Although there have been efforts to clean the bay, some locals have expressed concerns over wanting any part of it. Still, many people continue to travel to the local beaches to take a swim.
“I am not surprised that a lot of people don’t want to swim in the Chesapeake bay, but I am surprised by how high that number is,” says Kevin Allor, the education interpreter at the Calvert Marine Museum.
“The Chesapeake Bay is shallower than the ocean, so it’s a lot warmer. Because of that warmth, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Also, a lot of the area surrounding the bay is fairly urbanized, which can cause a lot of pollution… If there has been really heavy rainfall, you shouldn’t go to the beach for at least two days because that’s flushing everything out of the storm drains. Also, if you’re immunocompromised, you shouldn’t swim in any body of water unless it’s a pool or has been treated.”
Cleanliness and bacteria are not the only factors that keep people from swimming in the bay. Another concern for some is the jellyfish.
“Bay nettles are mainly an issue in July and August…going to the beach at low tide is better for avoiding bay nettles because the tide pulls them away from the shore. Preventing stings isn’t really possible by any means other than simply not getting into nettle infested waters,” explains Allor.
Allor also commented on how we as a community can help keep the bay clean so that we can all enjoy it.
“It’s pretty simple to organize a beach clean-up, all you need to do is have some trash bags and a pair of gloves and get people together to pick up trash on the beach… Make sure if you see anything that you speak up and actually report it. Not every beach is closely monitored, so actually saying something can really be a big help.”
“With everything I’ve said, there are reasons not to go into the water, there are reasons to enjoy the day as well. This isn’t “Don’t go into the water ever!” Just plan it a little better so you make sure that you and your family are safe.”
The Maryland Healthy Beaches program regularly tests the water of all the beaches in the community and posts advisories for water quality issues. You can also look at SwimGuide.org and TheBayNet.com, which post water quality advisories for beaches in the area.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of these interviews that were recorded took place in late-August. Additionally, it can be noted that our poll data comes specifically from reader participation.