May 30, 2008: A local paper in Odessa, TX reported that officials began testing water a few years back and found elevated levels of nitrates in private wells in the East 67th Street area. With no obvious fertilization due to farming in the area, officials determined that the elevated nitrate levels found in the well water they tested most likely came malfunctioning septic systems.
The article went on to warn that homeowners with septic systems located too close to wells have a greater risk of contamination, but that malfunctioning septic systems, regardless of proximity to the well, can still leach nitrates into the aquifers which provide water to wells not located too close to septic systems.
Owners of private wells, as noted in the article, do NOT have to test their wells with any frequency. No laws or regulations exist that force private well testing and as a result, many private well owners do not test their well water unless a specific problem develops — and usually that problem comes in the form of an unexplainable illness illness in the family or a sudden(?) malfunctioning of their well equipment.
Dangers of Nitrates in Drinking Water?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency states the following with regard to the dangers of nitrates in drinking water:
“Short-term: Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have caused serious illness and sometimes death. The serious illness in infants is due to the conversion of nitrate to nitrite by the body, which can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the child’s blood. This can be an acute condition in which health deteriorates rapidly over a period of days. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin.” ( source )
“Long-term: Nitrates and nitrites have the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: diuresis, increased starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen.” ( source )
Testing for Nitrates?
First of all, the Maximum Contaminant Level for Nitrates (as Nitrogen) in drinking water is 10.0 ppm (mg/L). This means water distributed for human consumption from ANY source should not contain more than 10.0 ppm (mg/L) of Nitrates (measured as Nitrogen).
Well owners, or pretty much anyone who wants to test for Nitrates can use a simple Nitrate Test Strips for that purpose and get accurate test results in just over a minute. This product also gives a reading for Nitrites, which also pose a health risk to humans. The Maximum Contaminant Level for Nitrites (as Nitrogen) in drinking water is 1.0 ppm (mg/L)