University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

News Journal: Nanticoke receives passing marks but bacteria still a concern

The Nanticoke River, considered among the most pristine of the Chesapeake Bay tributaries, continues to suffer from high levels of bacteria and nitrogen pollution. The latest report card for the watershed, released Thursday by the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, gives the river an overall grade of a B-, a slight improvement over last year. The creeks that feed the river had slightly better overall water quality, and they received an overall grade of a B. The report card results will be posted on the organization’s website.

But the report card continues to point to some trouble areas. Nitrogen levels continue to be high in the Delaware headwaters, including the remote Marshyhope and Broad creeks – which both received failing grades for nitrogen pollution. Nitrogen can come from septic systems and runoff from the land.

In addition, very high bacteria levels were found from Seaford and Federalsburg in Maryland to Lewis Wharf, also in Maryland.

There can be many sources of bacteria from animal to human waste, and the alliance is working with the Salisbury University Source Tracking Lab to try to determine the source of the bacteria in the watershed. Similar studies have been done in other Delaware waterways.