U.S. Water News Online
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. -- Two months after water wells around
Somerset and Wicomico counties started going dry, local officials say
the well failures are spreading, and they've asked the state to step
in and help.
More than 120 wells have gone dry since May, according to The
Salisbury Daily Times. The affected homes relied on water from the
Manokin aquifer, and officials are trying to figure out what's
causing the problem.
"This is a warning sign that something dramatic has happened in
the Manokin aquifer," said Robin Street, manager of the Somerset
County Sanitary District, who has been compiling a list of 93 failed
wells in Somerset County.
Local officials have identified two possible culprits -- a sod
farm and a state prison that are drawing water from the aquifer. As
the dry-well situation gets worse, officials say the state needs to
step in and help residents with no water.
Somerset County Commissioners have asked Gov. Martin O'Malley to
halt the use of the Manokin aquifer by the sod farm as well as
Eastern Correctional Institution in Princess Anne, which is pumping
more than 10 times what is permitted.
Somerset County Commissioners have asked the governor in a letter
for funding to help residents pay for new wells.
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese told the Daily Times that the
governor was aware of the well problem. Abbruzzese said the state
Department of the Environment was investigating, but he didn't say
whether aid would come to the people with dry wells.
Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt is appealing to the
governor to ease the income requirements for state grants and loans
so that funds are available to anyone with well problems.
Some residents say the state may be to blame for the dry wells.
That's because the state Department of the Environment approved water
permits for the prison and the sod farm despite local objections, the
Daily Times reported.
"We have concerns that approval of this well, to be used for farm
irrigation, could have an adverse effect upon the water supply in the
northern section of Somerset County," then-County Administrator
Charles Massey said in an April 2004 letter to MDE.
Two years later, another letter to MDE from the Sanitary District
objected to the prison's use of the Manokin aquifer, which was
causing a drop in the wells used by Princess Anne's public water
Some residents say the state should repeat its action in 1987,
when the state reimbursed residents within a 5-mile radius of the
prison for similar well problems. Resident Pam Hutchinson said the
state should again waive income requirements for assistance to people
with well failures.
"It shouldn't make any difference what income level you're in,"
Somerset County Commissioner Rex Simpkins said the county has
requested another meeting with MDE later on Aug. 14 and are waiting
for a reply.
In June, a hydrogeologist hired to evaluate the problem reported
he was concerned that if the Sanitary District, the prison and the
sod farm are all drawing water from the same aquifer, then it could
create a condition known as mining, in which more water is pumped out
than can be replenished by natural means.
Wicomico resident Bill Ryan still has a working well but said the
government, both state and local, should do more to preserve the
water supply through growth management and watering bans when
"The government's not doing its job," Ryan said.
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