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Nitrate water testing clinic to be held in Cottage Grove June 24

Is your well water safe to drink?

The Washington Conservation District, in partnership with the Washington County Department of Public Health and the Environment, will offer a free nitrate water-testing clinic from 4-7 p.m. Monday, June 24, at Washington County Service Center, 13000 Ravine Parkway, Cottage Grove.

Nitrates are the most common contaminant in Minnesota’s groundwater and Washington County recommends that people with wells test their water annually for total coliform bacteria and nitrates. Although any well can become contaminated by nitrates, shallow, poorly constructed, or improperly located wells are most susceptible.

Nitrate levels at or above 10 mg/L have been known to cause a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants under six months of age called methemoglobinemia or "blue-baby" syndrome. Pregnant women are also at risk from elevated nitrate levels. In addition, elevated nitrate levels may suggest the possible presence of other contaminants such as disease-causing organisms, pesticides, or other inorganic and organic compounds that could cause health problems.

To participate in the free testing clinic, bring at least ½ cup of water in a clean plastic or glass container. To get a good sample, allow the tap to run 5-10 minutes before filling the container. If you have a distillation unit, reverse osmosis or other nitrate removal system, take two water samples – one before and one after the treatment process - to determine if the system is working properly. If you only have a water softener, you only need to take one sample.

Samples should be taken no more than 24 hours before the testing clinic and must be kept refrigerated prior to testing. To ensure accurate results, mark the container with your name, phone number and a well identification number if more than one well is sampled. Those who wish to remain anonymous should choose an easily recognized “code number” to identify the sample. It is not necessary to provide information about the well or well location.

Samples will be analyzed on the spot (the process usually takes less than 5 minutes) and results will be given directly to the person who brings in the water sample. If the nitrate levels in a sample are found to be elevated, clinic staff will refer people to a certified lab to retest the water.

For questions about the free nitrates water testing clinic or how to take a sample, contact Wendy Griffin at 651-275-1136 ext. 24.