Test your water for nitrate

The Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District will hold a free Water Testing Clinic to test well water for nitrates on October 3rd from 2pm to 6pm at the Mille Lacs County Household Hazardous Waste Drop Off event at the Mille Lacs County Public Works Building at 565 8th Street NE, Milaca. 

 Drop your water sample off at the testing sites between 2pm and 6pm. Samples will be run during the Clinic. You can be there to watch the sample analysis and receive the results immediately or we will mail the results to you following the fair. (Everything is confidential.)


What is Nitrate? 

Nitrate (NO3-N) is a naturally occurring chemical made of nitrogen and oxygen. Nitrate is found in air, soil, water, and plants. Much of the nitrate in our environment comes from decomposition of plants and animal wastes. Most lawns and agricultural crops such as corn are commonly fertilized with nitrogen fertilizers.

Why Should I Test My Water for Nitrate? 

Nitrate is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. The only way to determine if there is nitrate in your water is to have your water tested specifically for nitrate. Monitoring studies across the state, particularly on the outwash sands, indicate that 5 to 25 percent of our drinking wells contain nitrate- nitrogen levels above the health advisory limit.

Elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water can cause Blue Baby Syndrome in infants. If the NO3-N concentration of your water exceeds the health limit of 10 Parts Per Million (PPM), do not feed to infants under six months. Boiling your water will not remove nitrate (boiling the water actually concentrates the nitrates).

What Happens if I Find Nitrate in My Water? 

If you find that the NO3-N level in your water is less than 10 ppm; the nitrate level is acceptable and you should continue to monitor nitrate levels periodically.

If your NO3-N level is above 10 ppm, here are some recommended steps:

• Retest at a certified lab.

• Consider the health consequences, and find an immediate alternative water supply for infants.

• Have the well inspected.

• Identify potential nitrate sources; the staff at the clinic may assist you with this task.

What happens with the data? 

The test result is for your benefit. It is not necessary to provide us with any information about your well. The data is summarized on a county basis at the end of the year, with no names entered into the database.

First of all, how long does this take? 

• Your sample is analyzed “on-the spot.”

Usually this takes 5 to 10 minutes.

How do I take a Sample? 

1. Run the water for 3 minutes before taking the sample.

2. Use a permanent marker to label any type of plastic baggie or Ziplock™ bag with your name. If you want to remain anonymous, label the bag with a number or a code you will easily remember. A clean glass jar can also be used if a plastic bag is not available. If you have more than one sample, add an identifier.

Example: Joe Swenson Joe Swenson

Home Well Barn Well #2

3. Collect the water in a baggie or jar only 1/2 cup is needed. Do this within 24 hours of arriving at the water testing clinic, and keep it refrigerated until you leave for the clinic. The water sample should be cool upon arrival.

4. If you have water treatment equipment installed (other than a softener), we recommend taking a sample “before” and “after” to determine if your system is working properly.


Helpful Hints: 

 Know the age, depth, and type of well (sand point, drilled, hand dug, etc.) This will help us answer your questions.

 Double-bag your water sample(s) to ensure no leakage.

 Make sure your sample bag is labeled.

 Keep the sample cool and out of sunlight.

 If nitrate is detected, test your drinking water annually. If nitrate is not detected, test your drinking water biennially.

 Annually test your drinking water for bacteria.


Contact Lynn Gallice at the Mille Lacs Soil & Water Conservation District at 320-983-2160 with any questions.