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The county’s assurances didn’t comfort Rick Aley, a commercial fisherman who crabs and fishes in the Patuxent River much further downstream.

“I think it stinks,” said Mr. Aley, who lives in St. Mary’s County but works along the Patuxent River, which is fed by the Little Patuxent River.

“The sewage is going to sink to the sediment and go into the mud,” he said.

State officials insist the shellfish beds are too far away to be affected and that if fishermen have any concerns, they should always wash their hands. In addition, much closer to the plant, local health officials ordered parts of the river closed this week and warned people not to have direct contact with the river water.

Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said state inspectors were sent out into the river to test the upstream and downstream waters around the plant.

While he said it’s not unusual for water treatment plants to experience overflows during a big storm, he noted that Howard County was working to make improvements under the terms of a consent decree it entered into with Maryland in 2010.