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September 27, 2023

2023 Bacteria Testing Season Wrap-up

The 2023 Bacteria Season has come to an end.

September marks the end of Arundel Rivers Federation’s annual bacteria monitoring season. Our mission is to protect, preserve, and restore the South, West, and Rhode Rivers by working with local communities to achieve clean, fishable, and swimmable waterways for present and future generations. To achieve our mission, in addition to our general tidal monitoring program, Arundel Rivers also monitors for bacteria during the peak swimming season to identify any potential swimming areas that may not meet water quality standards. Arundel Rivers monitored a total of 21 sites this past summer – 17 sites on the South River and 4 on the West and Rhode rivers.

Just under 40% of our sites passed 96-100% of the time this summer. Our most frequently failing sites were the beach at Hillsmere (which passed 53% of the time) and the headwaters of Beards Creek (which only passed 20% of the time). When it rains, the runoff from our roads, fields, and homes washes bacteria into the river. This specific type of bacteria – enterococci – is commonly found in human and animal waste and emanates from failing septic systems, animal waste washing off fields, leaking sewer lines, pet waste near a beach, or geese and other wildlife passing by. Enterococci has been identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Maryland as an indicator for bacterial levels in the water that can harm human health and should be avoided.

Now that we have identified frequently failing locations, Arundel Rivers is excited to take our monitoring efforts a step further at these sites. With funding from the Anne Arundel County County Executive’s Community Support Grant Program, Arundel Rivers will work to identify bacteria sources at frequently failing sites. Target sites for further testing will include Upper Beards Creek, Hillsmere Beach, Cub Neck Creek, Hardesty’s Cove on Beards Creek, and Warehouse Creek. It is our hope that with this funding, we may be able to better identify restoration or education projects that will directly improve downstream bacteria levels.

Please join your South, West, and Rhode Riverkeeper at Arundel Rivers’ State of the Rivers event in the spring of 2024 to learn more about the results from these tests as well as from our tidal monitoring program, which will wrap up next month. Arundel Rivers and program volunteers collected this data weekly on Thursdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Results were posted on Arundel Rivers social media pages and on SwimGuide, a water quality website and smartphone app. Thank you to the program funders and volunteers, without whom this program would not exist. Interested in sponsoring a monitoring location or volunteering for the 2024 bacteria monitoring season? Please contact your South, West, and Rhode Riverkeeper!

Passes 96-100% of the time:

West River:

  • Lerch Creek
  • West River Sailing Club

South River:

  • Berkshire (Beards Creek)
  • Hambleton Estates
  • Harbor Hills
  • Hillsmere Marina
  • Selby Beach
  • Sylvan Shores

Passes 60-95% of the time:

South River:

  • Broadview/Preserve (Broad Creek)
  • Edgewater Beach
  • Glen Isle
  • Hardesty’s Cove (Beards Creek)
  • Londontown
  • South Haven (Broad Creek)
  • South River Park (Warehouse Creek)
  • Southdown Shores (Beards Creek)
  • Wilelinor (Church Creek)

West River:

  • School Creek

Rhode River:

  • Holly Hill (Cub Neck Creek)

Passes less than 60% of the time:


  • Hillsmere Beach
  • Upper Beards Creek

A+ (95%-100%): West River Sailing Club, Lerch Creek, Harbor Hills, Sylvan Shores, Hambleton Estates, Hillsmere Marina, Berkshire, Selby Beach

A (85-94%): Londontown, Edgewater Beach, Glen Isle, Broadview/Preserve, Wilelinor, South Haven, School Creek, Southdown Shores

A- (80%-84): Holly Hill

B (65%-74%): South River Park (Warehouse Creek), Hardesty’s Cove

C (45%-54%): Hillsmere Beach

D- (20-24%): Upper Beards Creek