Saturday dawned crisp and clear, but some families living on Broad Creek in Annapolis had to abandon their weekend plans when a sewage spill left the waters less than inviting.
The Anne Arundel County Health Department closed a stretch of the creek from Heritage Harbour to Camp Woodlands, a Girl Scout camp on Riva Road, until the contamination is cleared.
An undetermined amount of raw waste spilled into the headwaters of Broad Creek from a blocked sewer line in the Heritage Harbour housing community, said Evelyn E. Stein, spokeswoman for the county Health Department.
Health officials posted signs prohibiting swimming after a passer-by noticed sewage overflowing from a manhole and seeping into the creek Saturday morning.
Although the main sewer line apparently had been clogged with grease for a while, the overflowing manhole went undetected because the waste spilled into a section of the creek surrounded by dense woods, Stein said.
A repair crew cleaned out the 8-inch trunk line after the passer-by, who had been hiking in the area, called to report the spill just before 8 a.m., said Karen Lambert, a spokeswoman for the county utilities department.
"Grease is a real killer for the line," she said. "This kind of thing could be avoided if people didn't dump grease in their toilets."
Since fecal coliform, the bacteria found in sewage, increases the risk of infection and disease, health officials closed the contaminated upper end of the creek to most water sports until the pollution dilutes naturally.
Swimming, water-skiing and diving will be banned in the upper end of Broad Creek until tests of water samples show acceptable bacteria counts. The earliest the creek could reopen is Friday. Health Department standards require a passing score on two consecutive days, and testing takes 48 hours, Stein said.
Boating and fishing are permitted, but Stein urged residents to thoroughly cook their catches. She also advised against trapping oysters and clams, because they absorb pollutants easily.
For most residents in the northern Broad Creek area, the spill was a minor nuisance. At least one group decided to skip a canoeing expedition, but most said they rarely swim in the creek or even splash along the shore.
Leslie Cox, a nanny for two children in a housing community off Forelands Road, said the spill forced her to postpone a canoeing trip with the children on Saturday.
But the contamination did not end a weekend of exploration and fun for 12 Scouts at Camp Woodlands, said Carolyn Trout, director of communications and development for Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Inc.
"They weren't planning on going in the water, anyway, so they had just as good a time," she said.