Olmsted County to provide free nitrate testing for private well owners

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

Free nitrate testing will be available at the Rochester Farmer’s Market located at Graham Park, 35 Fairgrounds Ave. SE in Rochester, on Saturday, June 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

To participate, collect a cup of water from your well in a clean plastic bag or glass container and bring it to the Rochester Farmer’s Market. The sample will be analyzed with results expected within 15 minutes.

Olmsted County SWCD and OCPHS staff will be available to answer questions and recommend solutions if the 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 (10mg/L) 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 the 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.