The Dangers of Fertilizer Runoff in Nebraska Well Water


It may be hard to believe, but over 43 million Americans get their water supply from private well water.   That is no small number, and while public water supplies are regulated by the (EPA), private wells are not and do not fall under the Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction. This translates to roughly 15% (fifteen percent) of the U.S. population consuming drinking water, which does not potentially meet EPA standards.  Some state and local county or city governments have rules for private well water, but the responsibility ultimately lays with the homeowner to take steps to protect and maintain their drinking water supply.The Dangers of Fertilizer Runoff in Nebraska Well Water

Fertilizers… The Hidden Dangers to Rural water supplies in Nebraska 

If you live in a metropolitan area, this does not apply to you, but if your home is in a rural area of Nebraska, your well water may be affected by fertilizer runoff contamination. Fertilizers and pesticides in fact are used to treat crops and they can mix with water when they come into contact with rain, snowmelt or irrigation. As the trickles through the soil, it can seep into the water tables and wells, contaminating the supply.

The foremost danger caused by fertilizer runoff is the level of nitrogen. This is a common ingredient in many man made fertilizers and also in certain pesticides. Once the nitrogen is combined with oxygen it can create nitrate. While nitrates do occur in nature, the major man made polluting sources are raw sewage, fertilizer and feedlots.

Bottom line: Nitrates are potentially toxic to humans and high levels can cause a number of medical conditions.

“Blue baby syndrome” and impact of High Nitrate Levels on your health

“Blue baby syndrome” is a particularly dangerous side effect of high nitrate levels in water supplies. Nitrates reduce the oxygen supply in the blood, limiting oxygen in vital tissues such as the brain. Pregnant women are vulnerable to the effects of high nitrate levels in the water supply, but infants six months and under are the ones most susceptible.  They may exhibit symptoms such as a bluish tone to the skin around the mouth and eyes, dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and weakness. These symptoms require immediate medical attention as the “syndrome” is  potentially fatal.

While healthy adults may be able to consume high levels of nitrates, prolonged ingestion has been linked to stomach cramps, diarrhea and assorted gastric problems as well as the risk of developing cancer.

Treatment Protocols for Well Water in Nebraska

According to a 2004 study conducted by the US Geological Service, 23% (twenty three percent) of wells in the United States contain a minimum of one contaminant over EPA stated health standards levels. This illustrates the need for regular testing and proper water treatment protocols.  Nitrates in particular could be at a harmful level in your water supply and yet you would never know it as they are odorless and tasteless.

The most effective treatment for contaminated Nebraska well water is R.O. (reverse osmosis,) which removes all these impurities producing safe drinking water. However, you may need to consult with a specialist to determine the best approach to treating your well water.

About The Author, Terry Reeh, Partner 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.  In addition to running the day-to-day operations of EcoWater Systems of Nebraska, one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery enterprises in the state, 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.

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