Possible nitrate contamination concerns for some private well owners

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:03 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EAP) has warned the state of Minnesota about a potential high nitrate contamination in the well waters of eight counties in the southeast Minnesota’s so-called Karst Region.

These impacted counties are Olmsted, Winona, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower and Wabasha.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, nitrate can negatively affect how blood carries oxygen when consumed too much — leading to health complications especially for pregnant women and bottle-fed babies.

The Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District said the contamination problem is mainly with private wells.

“Private well users get their water from a private supply that is not monitored regularly unless they do it themselves,” Olmsted County Water Resources Coordinator Caitlin Meyer said. “So really, it is up to the private well owner to do the testing, to do the monitoring, and then mitigating if their well is over unsafe levels.”

According to Meyer, public and community water supplies are constantly monitored. With that, concerned users can access public reports on how safe their local water quality is.

Olmsted County Public Health Environmental Lab Manager Lauri Clements said private wells on the other hand are not inspected during initial construction.

“After new construction, private wells are not regulated,” Clements said. “And so, it is up to the private well owner or the person that is using that well to get it tested because that’s the only way to know for sure what the quality of your drinking water is.”

The county officials encouraged residents with private wells to take advantage of water test kits. Those test results can offer treatment solutions specific to how the water source is contaminated. The Minnesota Department of Health said private wells must be tested every other year.

“We would just like to say that, the majority of the supplies across southeastern Minnesota and specifically in Olmsted County, it is safe to drink your water. But the only way you can know that is to test and so we we just recommend testing if you haven’t so that you can really know the quality of your water.”

Olmsted County SWCD Water Resources Coordinator Caitlin Meyer

The EPA gave the state of Minnesota 30 days to develop a response plan addressing the nitrate contamination.

This plan must provide education, outreach, water testing, and alternative water resources for those impacted.

You can buy water test kits from Olmsted County Public Health through its website.