If you live in Nebraska, Should You Be Worried about Nitrates in Your Water?
Nitrate contamination is common in rural areas around the United States. This particularly affects residents of Nebraska, since the state has a higher than average number of farming and cattle operations. With attention grabbing headlines featured in the media, should you really be worried about the nitrate levels in your area?
Here are some facts to consider if you live in Nebraska:
Nitrate Contamination and Farming:
Research suggests that up to 90% of nitrate contamination in water can be traced to the farming and agricultural industry. The primary reason for this is that nitrates are often used in fertilizer. Nitrates are also produced from animal waste. When the nitrates in these products are not totally absorbed by the crops or soil, the excess can be washed into the surface and groundwater supplies used for residential drinking water systems.
This can also be particularly problematic for those who live near agricultural areas and have a private well water supply. Heavy rainfall can allow nitrate-contaminated water to run off into water supplies. Since the EPA does not regulate private well water supplies, the responsibility to ensure that drinking water is safe falls squarely on the property or homeowner.
Unfortunately, nitrates and many other contaminants do not affect the taste or the appearance of drinking water, making a contaminated supply difficult to detect. For this reason, it is recommended that well water supplies be tested at least once every year. If you live in a community with high agricultural activity, it is a good idea to have your well tested more frequently.
The Potential Dangers of Nitrates:
Nitrates are just one of approximately 90 contaminants regulated by the EPA. This responsibility was created when Congress passed the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. The legislation charged the EPA with determining the safe levels of drinking water contaminants and at what level they should be reduced to, to minimize the risk of adverse health effects.
The EPA created the MCLG (Maximum contaminant level goals) for each of the potentially dangerous contaminants, by determining the potential risk from lifetime exposure and added in an adequate margin of safety. The maximum permissible level for nitrates in domestic drinking water supplies is currently set at 10 parts per million.
The main concerns with nitrate contamination in water supplies are that it can trigger some health issues. High nitrate levels can compromise the oxygen carrying ability of Methemoglobin in the human body. This reduces the oxygen supply to cells, tissues and organs throughout the body. While adults generally have the ability to change Methemoglobin into hemoglobin and reduce the seriousness of this condition, infants, pregnant women and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions can be at significant risk.
For example, blue baby syndrome affects infants under the age of six months. This condition occurs as infant blood lacks the ability to turn Methemoglobin back to hemoglobin. This means that the oxygen supply is reduced, and the child is placed at risk of brain damage or death.
Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief boiling water will not protect you from nitrate contamination. Nitrate is not a virus or a bacteria. In actual fact, boiling water can actually raise the nitrate levels to almost double, significantly increasing the risk of adverse health effects on humans and pets. Fortunately, there are a number of domestic water treatment solutions available to remove nitrates from domestic water supplies. From Reverse Osmosis systems that can be installed under your kitchen sink, to whole of house systems, you can ensure that your family is protected from the dangers of nitrate contamination in Nebraska.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state and Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices.