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This paper links extensive hydrogeologic investigations on the Atlantic coastal plain of the United States with geologic and oceanographic studies related to oil exploration on the Atlantic continental margin. Changing sea level caused by ice accumulation during the Pleistocene glacial epoch greatly influenced the recharge, storage, and movement of fresh ground water along the entire reach of the Atlantic seaboard. In the south, artesian aquifers of relatively high permeability convey fresh ground water seaward in coastal plain sediments more or less in hydrodynamic equilibrium with the present level of the sea. In the north, low permeability confining beds and rapid overflooding during the last stages of glacial melting have trapped fresh ground water in artesian aquifers underlying the continental shelf. The intent of this synthesis is to integrate research studies on saltwater intrusion and the geographic occurrence of fresh ground water to describe the complex circulation systems that presently exist.

The Atlantic continental margin is defined as extending from the mainland shoreline to the foot of the continental slope. The continental shelf and slope are subdivisions of the continental margin. The coastal plain extends landward from the shore to the fall line, which marks the eastern border of the piedmont province. The continental shelf is defined as extending from the shore seaward to the 200-m isobath. As used in this report, the term coastal plain sediments applies to all sediments overlying crystalline bedrock extending from the piedmont to the foot of the continental slope.

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