Waterfront Partnership Unveils New Harbor Heartbeat Report

Waterfront Partnership was joined by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Delegate Brooke Lierman, Baltimore Department of Public Works Director Rudy Chow, P.E., and several environmental advocates today for the release of the Harbor Heartbeat report. This brand-new report expands the scope of the report card issued in previous years to cover seven key indicators of Harbor health: fecal bacteria, sewer repairs, pollution tracking, litter and debris, restoration projects, ecosystem health and volunteering.

“2017 was another exciting year for water quality in Baltimore,” said Adam Lindquist, director of the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative. “City and state officials broke ground on a $430 million infrastructure project that will reduce sewer overflows by 80%, we helped ban foam containers and over 14,000 volunteers helped to restore Baltimore’s streams and Harbor. When the people of Baltimore use their voices, take action and get their hands dirty – that’s when we see real change being made.”

Readers can see how each of the seven indicators performed over the past several years and get a glimpse into what else goes into cleaning up the Harbor. The new report will still include ecosystem health scores specific to water quality indicators.

“After five years of issuing a report card, we decided it was time for a change,” said Lindquist. “When we started there were no trash wheels, we weren’t growing a quarter of a million oysters in the Inner Harbor and partners in the City and County weren’t putting as many projects in the ground as they are today. Harbor Heartbeat provides a much more complete picture of how restoration efforts are going.”

According to the Harbor Heartbeat, most of Baltimore’s water problems continue to be attributed to fecal bacteria, storm-induced pollution problems and low water clarity. The report stresses the importance of public action and outlines ways that the public can help with restoration efforts.

Top Five Takeaways


  • Fecal bacteria levels in Baltimore’s streams and Harbor, monitored by Blue Water Baltimore, substantially improved in 2017. Sewer repairs in the City and County are ongoing and there has been a 20% reduction in the number of reported sewer overflows since 2015.
  • Although data shows improved bacteria scores, Waterfront Partnership cannot state what specific actions caused these improvements. More years of data are needed to determine if changes are part of a larger trend.
  • 150 tons less trash was collected from the Harbor in 2017, compared in 2016, which advocates attribute to less rainfall as well as the City’s decision to provide trash cans to all residents and increase street sweeping.
  • Conductivity in the streams continues to be the worst performing indicator with a score of eight percent. Salts and other pollutants are carried into our streams when it rains, raising the conductivity to unsafe levels for fish and other wildlife.
  • Over the last four years, Baltimore City DPW found and repaired 279 pollution sources in the City’s sewer and storm drain pipes and more than doubled its capacity to perform pollution investigations.


How can the public help improve water quality?

To help reach the Healthy Harbor goal of making the Harbor swimmable and fishable, there needs to be a significant increase in improvement efforts and support from the public. Much can be done to improve water quality in Baltimore.

  • Identifying and reporting pollution to local government by calling 311 is important in addressing some of the largest sources of pollution. Pollution can also be reported directly to the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper at www.bluewaterbaltimore.org or by calling 443-908-0696.
  • Residents and businesses can also install restoration processes like planting trees and native gardens to curtail the fastest growing source of water pollution.
  • Lastly, the public can take care in always disposing of trash properly while spreading the word to reduce littering.

Read the report here.