Nitrate Testing for Wells
Nitrate is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Nitrate is a naturally occurring chemical compound comprised of nitrogen and oxygen produced from the decomposition of plants and animal wastes. Nitrogen fertilizers are also common sources of nitrates. Nitrates, however, are only detected by specifically testing for them. Elevated levels of nitrates can cause Blue Baby Syndrome in infants. Recent studies throughout the state, particularly in the outwash sands, indicate that 5 to 25 percent of drinking wells contain nitrate-nitrogen levels above the health advisory limits. It is recommended to test your well for Nitrates every two to three years.
The state Health Risk Limit for nitrate is 10 mg/L of nitrate-nitrogen, which provides newborns with reasonable protection against blue baby syndrome. This level is mandatory for all public water systems, and recommended for private wells.
To find out if there is nitrate in your water, have it tested by a laboratory that is certified for nitrate testing by the Minnesota Department of Health. Laboratories will provide sampling bottles and instructions. The price for the test typically ranges from $7 to $25. Visit the MDH - Certified Environmental Contract Laboratories Web site for all your water testing needs. Regardless of which tests you want done, always make sure to use a laboratory that has been certified to perform each of those particular tests. For more information check out:
On occasion the Stearns County SWCD sponsors a free nitrate testing clinic. To set up a nitrate testing clinic in your area contact:
Stearns County SWCD
Phone: 320-251-7800, Extension 3