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Baltimore Aims To Make Inner Harbor Swimmable By 2020

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An ambitious plan would make Baltimore's Inner Harbor swimmable by 2020.
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An ambitious plan would make Baltimore's Inner Harbor swimmable by 2020.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor is one of the worst places in the entire Chesapeake Bay when it comes to water quality. Even so, the city is developing a strategy to make it swimmable by 2020.

"I would definitely not consider swimming in the harbor right now," says Adam Lindquist, with Baltimore's Waterfront Partnership.

The biggest threat to humans from the harbor comes thanks to bacteria delivered via leaky sewer lines -- which, combined with pet wastes, bleed into storm water. The harbor also has problems with nitrogen and phosphorous.

"It's come out consistently at the bottom, it's the worst water quality and biotic health that we've established for the entire bay," Bill Dennison at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science.

There is a plan to fix this, and it will cost about $220 million dollars. It includes plans to upgrade the stormwater infrastructure, detecting and repairing sewage leaks, and initiating outreach to communities to reduce litter and trash that's swept into the harbor.

"The plan may sound expensive but many of the recommendations are things the state is going to have to do anyway to meet state and federal regulations," explains Lindquist.

Dennison and Lindquist say there are examples all around the world of urban areas that have successfully turned around their water ways. Boston just won the international river prize for improving the Charles River, that took around 10 years.

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