Pope Soil and Water Conservation District (Pope SWCD) will be hosting a free water testing clinic Friday, August 6th from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Pope County Fair. Bring your water sample to the Pope SWCD booth in the Industrial Building at the fairgrounds for a free nitrate analysis. To receive best results, collect a minimum of one-half cup of room temperature water in a clean container within two hours of testing.
Nitrogen exists in the environment in both organic and inorganic forms. When in its inorganic form, ammonium (NH4) or nitrate (NO3), it is an essential element to plants. However, when considering water quality, nitrogen becomes a concern when in its nitrate form. Excessive nitrate concentrations in groundwater can be hazardous to human and environmental health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set 10 mg/L as the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that private wells receive nitrate testing at least once every two to three years. If nitrates have been previously detected or if an infant under six months will be consuming the water, testing should be conducted more frequently.
Nitrates most commonly enter groundwater through leaching or draining. Because nitrate does not attach to soil particles, it is easily moved by water. Therefore, as water filters through the soil, so do present nitrates. Some primary factors that have an effect on nitrogen leaching include: nitrogen rate, application timing, nitrogen sources, irrigation practices, age of site, and soil texture. The contamination can result from both anthropogenic (human caused) and natural sources. Although both can lead to hazardous conditions, it is often anthropogenic sources that force nitrate concentrations into dangerous levels. These sources include but are not limited to: fertilizer application, manure storage, and sewage disposal. There are available treatments used to rehabilitate contaminated water. However, prevention of nitrogen loss is the favored method in reducing nitrate concentrations in groundwater.