Researchers find high levels of nitrates in Lower Eastern Shore drinking water
MARYLAND – Researchers are pointing to findings that may prove some drinking water in Wicomico and Worcester county is potentially unsafe. “We didn’t even go into this study assuming that there would be high levels. We just wanted to see what does it even look like?” said Policy Analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform Darya Minovi.
Researchers say they were surprised to find potentially dangerous levels of nitrates in drinking water from private wells around Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties. “There was sort of this swirling question around nitrates. People were worried about it, knew it might be an issue. But no one had really systematically looked at what pollution might be in these counties,” said Minovi.
Those researchers combed through decades of water testing samples. They say they found more than a third of Wicomico and Worcester County Residents are being exposed to dangerous nitrate levels in their drinking water. “Maryland does not require periodic testing of private well water, which is really problematic because water quality can degrade over time with new or heavier sources of contamination,” said Policy Analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform Katlyn Schmitt.
On the Lower Eastern Shore nitrates can often be traced back to waste from large scale poultry production. Consuming high levels of nitrates can cause serious health issues, and even death for infants under the age of six months. Schmitt tells 47ABC that in Maryland, private wells must only be tested when they’re first dug. After that it’s up to the owner.
But Schmitt adds many well owners on the Lower Eastern Shore are unaware of the need to test their well water or may not have the financial means to do so. “Due to the percentage of communities of color and low income residents on the Lower Eastern Shore relying on private well drinking water, nitrate contamination has become an environmental justice issue,” said Schmitt.
Minovi and Schmitt put together a list of recommendations on how to help remedy this situation. They say that law makers should work together to make new policies to protect drinking water, increase testing, and support private well owners. They also say that farms that are contributing to the pollution should be required to find a way to reduce it.
To read the full study, click here.