Ocean City Today

Worcester County water still A-OK, report says

Annual assessment reveals no contamination violations during 2016 testing period
By Brian Gilliland | Jun 29, 2017

(June 30, 2017) Retaining a streak at least three years old, the tap water in Worcester County is free from violations from contaminants, but did receive some technical violations in the 2016 reports for filing some results after the deadline, which has since been moved to resolve the issue this year.

However, just because no violations are reported doesn’t mean there is absolutely no presence of a substance within the highlighted water systems, and certain people are more sensitive to some materials than others.

Ocean City, Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke City produce their own water, and are not included in this batch of reports made by the county water/wastewater department.

The county provides water to 10 service areas: Ocean Pines, Briddletown, Edgewater Acres/Nantucket, Mystic Harbour, Riddle Farm, Newark, The Landings, Assateague Pointe, River Run and the White Horse Campground.

Starting at the Edgewater Acres area, located at the eastern edge of Ocean Pines to the northern end of Ocean City, waters were tested once per month and a variety of contaminants were found, but at levels significantly below federal tolerances. Copper, lead, disinfectant byproducts of the purification process, barium, fluoride, nitrate, a small amount of a synthetic organic contaminant Di-phthalate and radium were detected at levels too small to be considered a threat.

Moving to West Ocean City, with the Mystic Harbour/Landings and Assateague Pointe service areas, which were tested five times each month for total coliform and fecal coliform bacteria, only seven contaminants were measured, and all of the levels were “significantly below standards,” according to the report.

Both copper and lead were detected by the reporting, but not at levels considered to be dangerous, and are likely the result of erosion of natural deposits and corrosion of household plumbing supplies. Small amounts of nitrate and barium were detected, as well as a few byproducts of the disinfectant process for drinking water.

Westward in Worcester, the Riddle Farm service area waters were tested once per month and eight contaminants were discovered at levels below safety standards. Copper and lead were again detected, as well as fluoride and nitrates. A radioactive substance was discovered at a concentration of 5.2 picocuries per air liter, which is 5.2 trillionths of a gram where the maximum standard is 50 picocuries per liter. The three remaining contaminants were byproducts of the purification process.

In Ocean Pines, 175 contaminants were tested for with only nine discovered, and the waters were tested for bacteria 10 times per month, according to the report. Along with barium and nitrate, as well as the purification byproducts, selenium was discovered at a concentration five percent of the allowable standard. Methyl butyl ether, a gasoline additive, was also found but at a concentration of about 25 percent of the standard. Leaking underground storage tanks are blamed for its detection in the water system.

Still in the Ocean Pines area at River Run and the White Horse Campground, the same testing was done at the same rates as Ocean Pines, and the same substances were detected at the same concentrations.

Moving south to the Briddletown service area just east of Berlin, the water was tested once per month for bacteria, and nine contaminants were reported. Copper, lead and nitrate were all detected with the addition of chromium, which was explained by erosion of natural deposits or runoff from steel or pulp mills. Two sources of radiation were detected: radium 226/228, and an alpha emitter. The radium concentration is 20 percent of the allowable standard, with the alpha emitter only slightly higher.

Alpha emitters decay by emitting helium nuclei — one proton and one neutron.

Numerous other contaminants were present in the area, all likely caused as byproducts of the purification and disinfection processes associated with producing potable water, with one exception: methyl tert butyl ether from a possible fuel spill was also detected.

Finally, farther south in the Newark service area, the water was tested once per month for bacteria and seven contaminants were also discovered including copper, lead, fluoride, nitrate and water treatment byproducts.

The full reports are available on the county website, www.co.worcester.md.us.

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