The Shiawassee Conservation District, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, will be offering free screenings of nitrates and nitrites only for well water to help ensure the safety of households that rely on private wells for drinking water.
The screenings are open to everyone in Shiawassee County who uses a private well for drinking water. Water samples will be accepted and screened at the Shiawassee Conservation District from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17; Wednesday, July 18; and Thursday, July 19. Well owners who wish to participate in the water sample screening may bring a water sample in any clean bottle to the Shiawassee Conservation District office, which is located at 1900 S. Morrice Rd. in Owosso.
This screening is for private drinking water wells only. County residents are asked to please not bring samples from public water supplies or non-drinking water sources. Public water supplies are tested regularly.
Excessive nitrates in drinking water can adversely affect children’s health, sometimes causing blue baby syndrome. When ingested, nitrates are converted to nitrite in the digestive system. These nitrites react with the hemoglobin in the blood, which reduces the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the infant’s tissue and organs. This will cause the baby to develop a bluish coloring and possibly result in long-term digestive and respiratory problems. This syndrome occurs mostly in babies six months old or younger, but it can also be found in older children and adults. Pregnant women and individuals with reduced gastric activity are also at greater risk from high levels of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water.
Blue baby syndrome is most common in rural areas, where nitrates are used in higher levels for agricultural purposes. Leaching of nitrates generated from fertilizer may contaminate groundwater. The EPA regularly tests public drinking water to ensure that healthy levels of nitrates are maintained. However, those who use well water may be at risk for high levels of nitrates, since they can be carried by rain or irrigation water through the soil and into the groundwater.
Below are some tips on collecting samples:
• Pick a tap that supplies water but does not run through any treatment devices (water softener). An outdoor faucet often works the best.
• Run the water for 15 to 20 minutes before collecting the sample. Remove any hoses before collecting a sample. Rinse the sample bottle and lid thoroughly in the water before sampling, then fill and cap the bottle. Three ounces of water is adequate.
• Keep the sample dark and cold (on ice or refrigerated) until it is delivered.
• Samples must be less than 48 hours old.
For more information about this well water sample screening, or information on assessment tools used to help identify risks to groundwater or surface water associated with nitrogen fertilizer use, contact the Shiawassee Conservation District office at (989) 723-8263, ext. 3.