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Free Nitrate Screening Offered for Private Well Owners at Gem/Boise County Fair & Redeo - August 4

Friday, July 29, 2016  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Do you know if your well water is safe to drink? Public water systems are monitored for harmful contaminants regularly, but if you own your well, this responsibility falls to you.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) staff, in partnership with the Idaho Rural Water Association, will provide free nitrate screening at the Gem/Boise County Fair and Rodeo in Emmett on Thursday, August 4, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Nitrate is the most widespread contaminant in Idaho ground water. It is a chemical form of nitrogen found naturally in small amounts in soil and ground water. However, some land use practices and human activities may increase nitrate in ground water to dangerous levels. In areas with shallow depths to ground water, sandy soils, or shallow wells, nitrate contamination can easily occur.

Drinking water that contains high levels of nitrate is especially dangerous for infants under the age of 6 months, unborn children, and adults with low stomach acidity.

To participate in the free screening, well owners are advised to do the following on the morning of August 4:

  • Identify a source that is not connected to a treatment device (water softener, carbon filter, or other filtration system). An outside faucet or hydrant works best.
  • Locate a clean glass jar and lid or Ziploc bag to collect the water sample. Label the outside with your name or address, date, and well name (garden well, house well, etc.).
  • Allow the water to run 5-10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer. Doing so will lead to more accurate results.
  • Fill the container with approximately one cup of water.
  • Keep the sample cool. DEQ will dip a test strip into the water, which will indicate if nitrate is present.

Well owners can also obtain sampling bottles at the fair and have their water tested for nitrate or bacteria at the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state lab). Samples can be dropped off at the fair on August 4 until 2 p.m., Emmett City Hall on August 8 from 10 to 11 a.m., or Idaho City Hall on August 9 from 10 to 11 a.m. DEQ will deliver the samples to the state lab. Well owners will be billed by the lab $19 for nitrate testing and $18 for bacteria testing per sample.

Private well owners can always drop off water samples at the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, 2220 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise.

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