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 screening is open to everyone in Shiawassee County who uses a personal well for drinking water. Well owners who wish to participate in the water sample screening may bring a sample in any clean bottle to the Shiawassee Conservation District office at 1900 S. Morrice Rd. in Owosso. Water samples will be accepted and screened from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18 and Wednesday, July 19, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday July 20. These screenings are for private drinking water wells only. Samples from public water supplies or non-drinking water sources are not welcomed. 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 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 found 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, as they can be carried by rain or irrigation water through the soil and into the groundwater.

Some tips on collecting your sample include:

  • Pick a tap which supplies water that 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, and 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.
Free Well Water Screenings was last modified: July 3rd, 2017 by Karen Elford