It is shown by water quality monitoring that groundwater throughout the state of Nebraska contains nitrate, and in some areas, the concentrations are increasing.
The nutrient nitrogen is applied to crop production as well as gardens and lawns to increase productivity. Waste treatment systems, septic systems, animal yards, and feedlots are additional nitrogen sources that get carried in as waste. Nitrogen naturally occurs in the soil as well as in various organic forms from decayed animal and plant residues.
Various types of nitrogen are converted into nitrate, which is an oxygen/nitrogen ion, by bacteria that is in the soil. This is beneficial since most nitrogen that is used by plants gets absorbed in the form of nitrate. However, nitrate is very soluble and moves with water very readily through the profile of the soil. If there is over-irrigation or excessive rainfall, nitrate will drain under the root zone of the plant and might reach groundwater eventually.
Health hazards are associated with drinking water that is contaminated by nitrates occurs whenever nitrate is transformed into nitrite by the bacteria within the human digestive system. Nitrite reacts with the iron contained within the hemoglobin, which is the substance that carries oxygen within the red blood cells. This results in methemoglobin being formed. It creates a condition called methemoglobinemia (which is also called “baby blue syndrome” sometimes), where blood is unable to carry a sufficient amount of oxygen into the body’s individual cells. Infants who are less than a year old have the highest risk of getting methemoglobinemia. Older individuals with a gastrointestinal disorder that results in increased growth of bacteria might have a higher risk than others. Also, individuals with genetically impaired enzyme systems to metabolize methemoglobin might be at a higher risk as well. Overall, there is a low risk for the general population to develop methemoglobinemia even when fairly high levels of nitrite/nitrate are ingested.
The federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Safe Drinking Water Act requires public water supplies to be tested for nitrate. For public water supplies, the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) allowed by the EPA is measured as well as reported as nitrate-nitrogen, (NO3-N). This is the level of nitrogen that is in nitrate form. For nitrate-nitrogen within public water supplies, the MCL is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L). This can be expressed in terms of 10 parts per million (ppm) as well.
State and federal law do not require private water supplies to be tested. If you would like to know what nitrate concentration is contained in your own private water supply, you can have a certified lab test the water. There are also do-it-yourself test kits that are available. They can be used for preliminary screening of the nitrate-nitrogen contained in your well. However, it is recommended that an analysis be conducted by an approved laboratory for precise, reliable, and accurate measurement.
It is recommended that a testing laboratory perform an initial test on a new supply of water in order to determine the water source’s baseline nitrate concentration. A water test is also recommended for households with elderly people, nursing mothers, pregnant women, or infants. Those groups of people are thought to be the most susceptible to health effects related to nitrates.
The water supply can also be contaminated by activities taking place close to a well, which over time can change the nitrate concentration. It is recommended that private drinking water wells be tested every year to monitor nitrate concentration changes.
If the nitrate-nitrogen level is in excess of 10 ppm, you may want to consider having water treatment done or to use an alternate source of drinking water. You should base your decisions on nitrate analysis conducted by a reputable lab and after you consult with a doctor to help to evaluate the risk level.
You might be able to get safe alternate water supply by having a new well drilled in a different area or have a deeper well with a different aquifer. Drinking water can also be treated in order to reduce or remove nitrate-nitrogen. There are three treatment methods that can be used: ion exchange, reverse osmosis, or distillation.
Standard water softeners and carbon filters do not reduce or remove nitrate-nitrogen. It is also not reduced or removed by simply boiling the water. Actually, whenever water is boiled, the volume of water is lost through the evaporation process; however, nitrate is not. That results in the water have an increased concentration of nitrate-nitrogen that will remain even after prolonged periods of boiling. Let Wells Inc., provide a well solution for you. Contact us today!