The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the state Rural Water Association will offer free nitrate screening for private well owners at the Cassia County Fair in Burley from noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 16-17.
Public water systems are regularly monitored for harmful contaminants, but the responsibility falls on the owners of private wells, DEQ stated in a press release.
Nitrate, a form of nitrogen found naturally in small amounts in soil and water, is the most widespread contaminant in Idaho ground water. Some land use practices and human activities can increase the amount of nitrates in groundwater to dangerous levels. Nitrate contamination can easily occur in areas with high water tables, sandy soils, fractured bedrock or shallow wells.
Drinking water that contains high levels of nitrate is especially dangerous for infants under the age of 6 months, unborn children and adults with low stomach acidity.
To participate in the free screening, well owners are advised to do the following on the morning of the screening:
• Identify a water source that is not connected to a treatment device (water softener, carbon filter, or other filtration system). An outside faucet or hydrant works best.
• Locate a clean glass jar and lid or Ziploc bag to collect the water sample. Label the outside with the owner’s name or address, date and well name (e.g., garden well or house well).
• Allow the water to run 5 to 10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer, which will lead to more accurate results.
• Fill the container with approximately 1 cup of water.
Keep the sample cool. DEQ will dip a test strip into the water, which will indicate if nitrate is present.
For well owners who want their water tested for nitrate or bacteria at the Magic Valley Labs in Twin Falls, free sample test kits will also be available. The cost per sample is $18 for nitrate and $16 for bacteria. Owners will be billed by the lab.
For more information, contact Irene Nautch, DEQ Twin Falls regional office, at (208) 736-2190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about free online classes and webinars offered for well owners nationwide, visit www.privatewellclass.org .