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DEQ offering free nitrate screening to private well owners

Wednesday, February 15, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Free nitrate screenings will be offered to private well owners February 21 and March 8

Is your well water 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) will offer free nitrate screenings to private well owners at the Buhl Community Health and Information Fair on Tuesday, February 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at Popplewell Elementary School located at 200 N. 6th Ave.

DEQ will also participate in the 2nd Annual Groundwater Awareness Fair on March 8, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Twin Falls County West Building, 630 Addison Ave. West. Staff will offer free nitrate screening and sample bottles for water quality testing to private well owners. Free dye tablets for detecting toilet leaks will also be available.

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, but 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 6 months, unborn children, and adults with low stomach acidity.

To participate in the free screening, well owners are advised to take the following steps on the morning of February 21 or March 8:

  • 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 or house well).
  • Allow the water to run 5-10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer, which leads 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 more information, contact Irene Nautch at DEQ's Twin Falls Regional Office at (208) 736-2190 or e-mail For free online classes and webinars offered to well owners nationwide, visit

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