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Baltimore, Maryland Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Baltimore, Maryland

Where does Baltimore's water come from? Baltimore uses surface water from rainfall and snowmelt as the source of its water. The City of Baltimore water supply system consists of three major sources: the Gunpowder Falls, North Branch Patapsco River and the Susquehanna River. Three reservoirs outside the city limits collect and store water. Liberty Reservoir is located on the North Branch of the Patapsco River on the boundary between Baltimore and Carroll Counties. It collects water from a 163.4 square mile drainage area that includes eastern Carroll County and southwestern Baltimore County. 

Liberty Dam was completed in 1954, has a spillway crest elevation of 420 feet above mean sea level (MSL), and impounds approximately 43 billion gallons of raw water with a surface area of approximately 3,900 acres. Liberty Dam The Liberty watershed is divided into seven subwatersheds: Beaver Run (14.11 sq. mi.), Bonds Run (5.83 sq. mi.), Liberty Reservoir (46.57 sq. mi.), Little Morgan Run (7.14 sq. mi.), Middle Run (6.14 sq. mi.), Morgan Run (28.06 sq. mi.), and North Branch (55.51 sq. mi.). Water from the reservoir flows by gravity through a 12.7-mile long, 10-foot diameter tunnel to the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant for treatment. 

 Loch Raven Reservoir is north of Baltimore City and its watershed occupies Northern Baltimore County and small parts of Western Harford County and Southern York County, Pennsylvania. The source of reservoir water is Gunpowder Falls. Ashburton PlantLoch Raven Dam was initially constructed in 1915 with a spillway elevation of 192 feet above MSL and raised to its current spillway crest elevation of 240 feet above MSL in 1923. The reservoir capacity is approximately 23 billion gallons and the impounded area is roughly 2,400 acres. The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed is divided into eight subwatersheds: Beaver Dam Run (20.73 sq. mi.), Dulaney Valley Branch (3.24 sq. mi.), Gunpowder Falls I (24.56 sq. mi.), Gunpowder Falls II (1.77 sq. mi.), Little Falls (53.63 sq. mi.), Loch Raven Reservoir (59.31 sq. mi.), Piney Run (12.39 sq. mi.), and Western Run (47.67 sq. mi.). Raw water from Loch Raven Reservoir travels through a 7.3-mile long, 12-foot diameter tunnel for treatment at the Montebello Filtration Plants in Baltimore. Prettyboy Reservoir is in the northwest corner of Baltimore County and its 80 square mile watershed lies in northern Baltimore County and small portions of northeastern Carroll County and southern York County, Pennsylvania. Prettyboy Dam was completed in 1932, has a spillway crest elevation of 520 feet of MSL, impounds about 19 billion gallons of water, and covers about 1,500 acres. Is Baltimore's water safe to drink?

Source: City of Baltimore, MD

Contaminants Found in Baltimore's Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

Chromium (Hexavalent)

Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American drinking water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater.

Hormones

This utility detected 4-Androstene-3,17-dione & Testosterone. Hormones in drinking water come from human and animal wastewater discharged into drinking water sources. Conventional drinking water treatment does not remove hormones.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Trihalomethanes are cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The total trihalomethanes group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

Fluoride

Fluoride occurs naturally in surface and groundwater and is also added to drinking water by many water systems. The fluoride that is added to water is not the naturally occurring kind, the main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (Gross!). Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — moreso than any other water treatment chemical. In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes.

Potential Health Effects of Consuming These Contaminants

Health risks of Chromium (Hexavalent) in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.02 ppb for chromium (hexavalent) was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of Hormones in excess of health guideline

Endocrine Disruption: Hormones in drinking water come from human and animal wastewater discharged into drinking water sources. Conventional drinking water treatment does not remove hormones.

Health risks of Trihalomethanes in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.8 ppb for trihalomethanes was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a draft public health goal, the level of drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Contaminant Levels in Baltimore, MD Compared to Other Regions

Chromium (hexavalent)

 - Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

 - Baltimore, MD: 0.0386 ppb

 - State: 0.198 ppb

 - National: 0.782 ppb

Hormones

No drinking water standards exist for these contaminants which cannot be good (Yikes). This utility detected 4-Androstene-3,17-dione & Testosterone.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

 - Health Guideline: 0.8 ppb

 - State: 8.58 ppb

 - National: 23.7 ppb

 - Baltimore, MD: 50.5 ppb

Fluoride

 - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 0.376 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

 - Baltimore, MD: 0.985 ppb

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April Jones

A Colorado based hiker, blogger, and water quality expert...

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