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Lower Shore Safe Well Water Initiative

An initiative of the Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), and University of Maryland School of Public Health.

Safe drinking water is fundamental to protecting people’s health. In communities with heavy agricultural activity, pollution emitted from these farms can impact the environment and public health. Nitrates are a colorless, odorless, and tasteless compound that are formed when nitrogen from manure, fertilizer, or other waste breaks down. On Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, common sources of nitrogen include over-application of poultry manure to crops, as well as discharges from septic systems. Nitrates are an important plant nutrient, but in excess amounts, they can contaminate the groundwater that people rely on for their drinking water and endanger people’s health.


In 2020, the Center for Progressive Reform released a report that found that roughly 1 in 25 private wells in Wicomico and Worcester counties tested since 1965 had nitrate levels above EPA’s safe drinking water threshold. The findings were based on water samples collected when the well was drilled, so we still don’t know how many wells are contaminated today.


The goal of our initiative is to measure levels of nitrate (and nitrite, another form of nitrogen) in private wells in Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties in Maryland. The reason we are testing private wells is because well water is not protected by the federal government, and the state of Maryland currently does not regularly test private wells.

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