Ducks and other waterfowl are the likely source of bacterial contamination that has kept Miami Beach Park's swimming area closed since July 7, Baltimore County environmental inspectors said yesterday.
The bayfront swimming area will not reopen until county officials can develop a plan to drive the birds out, said Ian Forrest, bureau chief for waste management and community service.
But officials would not predict when that plan might be completed. "We're working on it every day," said John F. Weber, county parks director.
Whatever the plan, the problem can be handled "without compromising in any way" the ability of waterfowl to live in the area, said county environmental director George Perdikakis. Nearby areas can easily accommodate the birds, he said.
Testing of Miami Beach's water since April has shown average monthly contamination readings slightly higher than safe levels. But some daily readings have shown contamination 10 times greater than safe levels, county reports show.
Officials made a sanitary survey of areas surrounding the park to find the source of the fecal coliform contamination.
Birds are the most likely source because surveys found the highest concentrations of contaminants closest to the beach, Forrest said. Waterfowl have a high concentration of intestinal bacteria, he added.
Septic tanks have been ruled out as a source of the contamination, Forrest said, because inspections showed that nearby systems were "working reasonably well." County officials also doubt that storm drains and boats are sources of the bacteria.
"Water quality is very good" near the park, Forrest said, and areas of the Chesapeake Bay surrounding Miami Beach are all "well within acceptable levels." Last week, the Maryland Department of the Environment surveyed the area, including Middle River, Back River and Hart-Miller Islands Natural Resource Area, and found no safety problem.
Without swimmers to watch over at Miami Beach, most of the 12-member staff has been transferred to other county parks, Weber said. Some have resigned in uncertainty over job security for the rest of the summer, he said, adding that county officials have not settled on plans for those who remain at the park.
Miami Beach Park remains open to those willing to forgo swimming.
Pub Date: 7/25/97