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Baltimore County announces midge spraying along Back River

BACK RIVER.jpg
Posted at 5:53 AM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 18:17:11-04

ESSEX, Md (WMAR) — Relief is on the way for people who live, work or recreate near the Back River to keep nuisance flies away for the summer.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announces that they county will be working with the Maryland Department of Agriculture to control the midge population on the Back River.

The county announced that through the fall, the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (DEPS) will conduct aerial midge suppression treatments on a 1200-acre section of upper Back River.

“We are committed to ensuring those who visit, live and work along Baltimore County’s waterways are able to enjoy our amazing outdoor activities,” Olszewski said. “We are grateful for our partnership with Secretary Bartenfelder and the Department of Agriculture, in which we are establishing a long-term solution for suppressing this challenge in a safe and efficient manner.”

The issue is no secret to people frequent the Back River. Midges are small, non-biting, aquatic flies that swarm near water or marshy areas.

For over a decade, they had made summers intolerable. You can’t open your mouth and it’s caused businesses to lose customers.

“It’s always present. It’s always an irritant for the community surrounding the water and basically you cannot come out of your house, because not only will the midges be all over you property, they will be in your eyes and your mouth and your ears. You can’t even use your own property it’s that bad,” said Del. Robin Grammer.

The county has partnered with the state to hire a helicopter company to spray the upper Back River with a naturally occurring bacteria to reduce the midge population.

A helicopter will fly low over the river, spraying a naturally occurring bacteria that isn’t harmful to people, fish or crabs.

The goal is not to eliminate all adult midges, but to reduce their numbers to tolerable levels.

Grammer said treatments like these are short term fixes because the wastewater treatment plant continues to illegally discharge into the river.

“They thrive in environments where they have exposure to a lot of organic material to feed on and that has low water quality. When a waste water treatment plant starts to fail you really see a massive growth in the midge population,” said Grammer.

In 2014, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found the pollution was the likely cause of the midge infestation.

In the last month, the state has taken over the plant because of signification discharge violations, but last week, community groups found extremely high bacteria levels in the water just outside the plant, creating concern about the midge populations as we get closer to summer.

The county’s contractor will actively avoid boaters and other recreational activity in the water. The county will monitor the midge populations before and after treatments.

"Midges have been a consistent nuisance to the many communities along the Back River,” Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said. “I am glad to see the county's program move forward and provide some much-needed relief to local residents and businesses."