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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: bacteria

photo of fruit and veggie trayDr. Barbara McLean, Chief, Bureau of Prevention and Protection
Baltimore County Department of Healt
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Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, but even these items require proper care and preparation. The proportion of foodborne illnesses associated with fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over the past few years, but you can enjoy them safely by knowing and following these four steps:

1. Check

When shopping, check to make sure that fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables are not bruised or damaged.

2. Clean

Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Clean all surfaces with hot water and soap— countertops, cutting boards, knives and peelers before and after food preparation.

Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub thicker-skinned produce such as melons and cucumbers.                                      

Washing fruits and vegetables with detergent, bleach or commercial produce washes is not

recommended.

3. Separate

When shopping, keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from household chemicals and raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep them apart in the grocery cart, in the grocery bags and at home, in the refrigerator.

Do not use the same cutting board for fruits and vegetables that you’ve used for your raw meat, poultry or seafood before thoroughly washing it with hot water and soap.

4. Chill

Refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fruit and vegetables promptly.

Remember

Prevent fruits and vegetables from touching raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices.

When preparing produce, be sure to remove and throw away any bruised or damaged portions. Then wash thoroughly under running water

Fruits and vegetables should never be left out for more than two hours after cutting, peeling or cooking

I hope these tips will enable you and your family to fresh fruits and vegetables safely this summer. For more information on food safety, visit: www.fightbac.org/.  


photo of a capped residential wellKevin Koepenick, Manager, Ground Water Management Section
Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection & Sustainability

As the primary agency responsible for permitting domestic wells and septic systems for Baltimore County, my staff and I receive frequent questions from county residents about the safety of their well water.  Specifically, they are interested in knowing how often their wells should be tested, what parameters should be tested, and who can do the testing.

I recommended that all private drinking water wells be regularly tested for bacteria.  The US EPA recommends testing for bacteria annually, but it is probably most important to test for bacteria immediately following any plumbing work (adding a bathroom, replacing a well pump, etc.) or if you notice your wellhead is damaged or was flooded, or if your well water gets cloudy after it rains.  Nitrate levels should also be monitored (but less frequently) to ensure that they are below the 10 ppm standard for drinking water, and pH is important to watch to assess if your water is corrosive.  Depending on your specific tastes /preferences, it is also recommended that you test for iron, manganese, chlorides, and hardness.  If you notice a gasoline or oily smell in your well water or suspect leakage from a nearby underground fuel storage tank, you should probably have your water tested for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

In certain areas of the county you may also want to test for radium. Testing has confirmed that roughly 10-15% of the wells tested in areas underlain by Baltimore, Setters, and Slaughterhouse Gneiss formations have levels of radium above the US EPA drinking water standards.  The good news is that radium is easily removed by a standard water softener (a common water treatment device). 

As a private water supply, water quality testing is the responsibility of the homeowner.  There are a number of local private laboratories who provide these services.  For more details about water quality testing, wells and available labs, go to our website: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/environment/groundwatermgt/index.html

If you are interested in understanding more about radium, be sure and read the educational booklet entitled ‘Radionuclides and Your Well Water: A Homeowners Guide.”  You can also call our office at 410-887-2762 or send us an email at groundwater@baltimorecountymd.gov with any questions you might have.


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