The tenth post in our series highlighting some of the contaminants that can be found in water wells. Northeast Water Wells is available to collect samples and test your well water for contaminants anytime.
If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important. Northeast Water Wells recommends testing your well at least every two years. Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.
What are Nitrates/Nitrites and how are they used?
Nitrates and nitrites are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units which combines with various organic and inorganic compounds. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted into nitrites. The greatest use of nitrates is as a fertilizer.
Most nitrogenous materials in natural waters tend to be converted to nitrate, so all sources of combined nitrogen, particularly organic nitrogen and ammonia, should be considered as potential nitrate sources. Primary sources of organic nitrates include human sewage and livestock manure, especially from feedlots.
The primary inorganic nitrates which may contaminate drinking water are potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate both of which are widely used as fertilizers.
Since they are very soluble and do not bind to soils, nitrates have a high potential to migrate to groundwater. Nitrates/Nitrites do not evaporate, so they are likely to remain in water until consumed by plants or other organisms.
What are the regulations for Nitrates/Nitrites?
The Maximum Contaminant Level for Nitrates has been set at 10 milligrams/liter of water and 1 milligram/liter of water Nitrites.
What are the health effects?
Short-term: Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have caused serious illness and sometimes death. The serious illness in infants is due to the conversion of nitrate to nitrite by the body, which can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the child’s blood. This can be an acute condition in which health deteriorates rapidly over a period of days. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin.
Long-term: Nitrates and nitrites have the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: diuresis, increased starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen.
How can I reduce the level of Nitrates/Nitrites in my well water?
The following treatment methods have been approved by the EPA for reducing/removing nitrates/nitrites: Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis and Electrodialysis.
Northeast Water Wells offers a variety of testing packages to take care of all of your water needs. Call today to set up a time for us to collect a sample of your water. All of our testing is done through a state certified analytical lab.
If you live in Massachusetts you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here
If you live in New Hampshire you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here
Article written by Karen Provencher, Northeast Water Wells