Water test leads to urgent messageDave Johnson had a bit of a scare recently and he wants to encourage rural homeowners to avoid a similar frightening situation.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Dave Johnson had a bit of a scare recently and he wants to encourage rural homeowners to avoid a similar frightening situation.
After owning his rural New Richmond home for about six years, Johnson said he decided to test his well water to see if there was any contamination. He sent his sample off to a laboratory in Stevens Point and waited for the results to be sent back.
“I never dreamt that we would find anything,” he said. “I thought it would come back clean.”
The water testing lab sent back an expedited preliminary report to Johnson letting him know that the nitrate levels in his home’s water were very high.
“I just about fell on the floor,” he said.
Johnson said his home is surrounded by farm fields and a neighbor spreads a lot of manure on his property, wondering if that is the source for his water’s contamination.
The testing lab sent an alert to Johnson telling the homeowner that high levels of nitrates in water are not good for babies under 6 months old. Johnson has his daughter and 10-month-old granddaughter living with him at this time.
If pregnant women drink water that has high levels of nitrates in it, birth defects are possible, Johnson said. High nitrate levels are also deemed cancer causing.
“This is very serious,” he said. “I had no idea about the possible health effects.”
To solve the problem, Johnson said he needs to install a special filtering system on his water supply.
As he works to correct the situation, Johnson said he wants to alert others about the potential problem. He said few people regularly test their well water and that could lead to issues.
“This is a big thing,” he said. “It’s an awareness thing. People should know.”
Johnson said he, along with many people he’s talked to, never knew that public health recommendations suggest that well water testing should be completed on an annual basis.
“It seems like people with private wells are just left out in the cold,” he said. “Nitrates have been a problem for years, but people are unaware. They need to know that testing is a good idea, and not just put a notice in the fifth page of a newsletter somewhere.”
Ed Thurman, environmental health specialist for St. Croix County, said standard health officials generally recommend that people test their well water annually.
Thurman said that recommendation is rarely followed, and many people have never had their well water tested.
Thurman said people who have never had their water tested, and homes that have babies or pregnant women living in them should get their water tested right away.
Nitrates have often been found at high levels in the “big triangle” of St. Croix County (from New Richmond, west to Hudson and east to Hammond). “It doesn’t surprise me when a water test from that area comes in high for nitrates,” he said.
Any residence within that triangle should be aware of the issue and have their water tested regularly, Thurman said.
Water with more than 10 parts per million of nitrates is deemed unsafe for infants under 6 months of age. Any water over 20 part per million of nitrates is recommended to install a reverse osmosis filtering system, Thurman said.
Johnson’s well water tested above the 20 level, Thurman noted.
Thurman said his office offers free or low-cost water testing kits at various events in the county to encourage homeowners and businesses to test their wells.
“I know there is a risk out there and I do whatever it takes to get people to test,” he said. “Sometimes, if they know a free test is available, they’ll actually do it.”
For more information, contact Thurman at 715-246-8370.