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County offers nitrate testing at the fair

Residents with private wells for drinking water can have their water tested for nitrate for free from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 12 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 during the Dakota County Fair. Testing will take place in the horticulture and foods building Wednesday and Thursday and in the 4-H building Saturday. Well owners learn the test results in a few minutes.

Water samples may also be dropped off at the horticulture and foods building anytime during building hours, Monday, Aug. 9 through Sunday, Aug. 15. Dakota County will test the samples and mail the results to well owners.

If the drinking water in your home comes from a city water system, this testing service is not for you.

Bring one cup of water in a small, clean bottle or jar to the nitrate clinic. Collect the water sample just before leaving for the fair. Clearly label samples from different wells. To check if a water treatment system, such as a reverse osmosis unit (not a water softener), is working properly to remove nitrate, bring samples marked before and after.

Many private wells in Dakota County contain nitrate. Nitrate is the most common source of groundwater contamination in both Dakota County and the United States. Major sources of nitrate contamination can be fertilizers, animal waste and human sewage. Dakota County highly recommends testing private drinking water supplies annually.

A water supply with a nitrate concentration of more than 10 milligrams per liter is a significant risk to infants 6 months of age and younger. Elevated levels of nitrate in water and baby formula prepared from that water can cause Blue Baby Syndrome. Long-term health effects to older children and normally healthy adults are not yet known or agreed upon by scientists. Boiling water high in nitrate increases its concentration and does not make the water safe to drink. Nitrate can be removed with a reverse-osmosis or distillation treatment system.

Information for well owners about how to reduce or remove nitrate will also be available. For information about private wells, contact the Dakota County Water Resources Department at 952-891-7000.