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Free Nitrate Screening for private well owners at Nez Perce County Fair

Tuesday, September 19, 2017  
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) will offer free nitrate screening for private well owners at the Nez Perce County Fair in Lewiston September 21–25.

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

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 prior to testing:

  • Identify a water 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 (e.g., 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 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 more information, contact Hailey Shingler or Elizabeth Braker at DEQ's Lewiston Regional Office at (208) 799-4370 or email or For information about free online classes and webinars offered for well owners nationwide, visit

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