Free nitrate testing at Olmsted County Fair

(ABC 6 News) – The Olmsted Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS) announced they are providing free water testing at the Olmsted County Fair for households that rely on private systems for their drinking water.

The testing will take place at Graham Park in the Conservation Building from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday.

To participate, collect a cup of water from your well in a clean plastic bag or glass container and bring it to the Olmsted County Fair. Your sample will be analyzed while you wait. SWCD and OCPHS staff will provide results within 15 minutes.

Staff will be available to answer questions and recommend solutions if water samples show elevated nitrate levels.

Nitrate is a compound that naturally forms when nitrogen combines with oxygen or ozone. While nitrogen is essential for all living things, high nitrate levels in drinking water could pose harmful risks, especially to infants and pregnant women. 

Nitrates can occur naturally in surface and groundwater without causing health problems. However, high nitrate levels in well water often result from improper well construction and location. Improper disposal of human and animal waste or the overuse of chemical fertilizers can further increase nitrate levels.

Sources of nitrate that can enter your well include fertilizers, septic systems, animal feedlots, industrial waste, and food processing waste. After flooding, wells could become more vulnerable to contamination, especially if the wells are shallow, poorly constructed, dug or bored, or submerged by floodwater for long periods.