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News Releases from Region 03

Village Blue Brings Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring Data to Baltimore

Contact Information: 
David Sternberg (sternberg.david@epa.gov)

Contact: David Sternberg sternberg.david@epa.gov  215-814-5548

“Village Blue” Brings Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring

Data to Baltimore

BALTIMORE (October 14, 2016)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) today announced a “Village Blue” pilot research project to provide real-time water quality monitoring data to the Baltimore community to increase public awareness about local water quality in Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and USGS will use a new monitoring site on the Jones Falls River in Baltimore to test, evaluate and develop new low-cost water sensors that will collect the data.  These sensors will be located near the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore Inner Harbor Water Wheel, which removes trash before it enters the harbor.

“This initiative will provide the public with access to and understanding of water quality data they can use in a number of important ways,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.  “The information will help people become better stewards of their local waterways and take actions to protect their health by reducing exposure to contaminants.”

The real-time data will complement work that a number of state and local organizations are doing to make water quality available to the public.  The data will be displayed in a mobile-friendly, easy-to-understand visual manner on an interactive Village Blue website being developed by EPA.

The information will also be available at the USGS website, waterdata.usgs.gov, where information from about 1.5 million water monitoring sites nationwide is made public and searchable.

“We see this as more than a set of new scientific instruments. It is also a step forward in helping Baltimore meet its goal of a cleaner, healthier, more accessible Inner Harbor,” said Mary Kay Foley, director of the USGS’ Maryland-Delaware-DC Water Science Center, which collaborated on the project with the EPA.  “The information we’re gathering will help scientists better understand how to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and it will empower the citizens of Baltimore by giving them real time water quality and hydrologic information about the current status of their historic waterfront.”

Two instruments to be mounted near a pedestrian bridge across the mouth of the Jones Falls will continuously monitor the water’s flow and quality.

The monitoring station will be equipped with a flow meter, and five water-quality sensors.  The sensors will measure water temperature, salinity, oxygen content, pH and turbidity. A sixth sensor, to be added later, will measure dissolved nitrogen compounds.

“As a long time Baltimore area resident I am especially pleased that the Village Blue research project will make water quality monitoring data more accessible to the Baltimore Community,” said EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development, Thomas Burke. “This project complements the efforts of state and local organizations to make the Baltimore Harbor swimmable and fishable.” 

Over the next three years, the Village Blue project will help in the following important ways:

  • Provide important water quality information for Baltimore Harbor;

  • Support the development and test the accuracy of low-cost water sensors;

  • Help increase public awareness of water quality and ecosystem health through the website and a phone app; and,

  • Provide a how-to model for other communities to develop their own Village Blue stations.

Village Blue stations and low-cost sensors can help close information gaps in the nation’s water quality and provide additional data to scientists – both citizen and professional – to help them inform relevant communities, policies and environmental restoration efforts.