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Free Nitrate Screening to be Offered for Owners of Private Wells at Cassia County Fair Aug 17 & 19

Friday, August 12, 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.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in partnership with Idaho Rural Water Association, will offer free nitrate screening for private well owners at the Cassia County Fair in Burley on Wednesday, August 17, and Friday, August 19, 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, fractured bedrock, 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 17 or August 19:

  • 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.

For those wanting to have their well water tested for nitrate or bacteria at the Magic Valley Labs in Twin Falls, pick up sample bottles at the fair or at the South Central Public Health District (SCPHD) office located at 485 22nd St. in Heyburn. On the morning you plan to bring in your water sample, follow the instructions with the bottle, then return it to DEQ at the fair on Wednesday or Friday until 7 p.m. or at SCPHD on August 22 until 12 p.m. DEQ staff will deliver the samples to Magic Valley Labs. The cost per sample is $18 for nitrate testing and $16 for bacteria testing.

For more information, contact Irene Nautch at DEQ's Twin Falls Regional Office at (208) 736-2190 or e-mail For information about free online classes and webinars offered for well owners nationwide, visit

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