State to Test 70,000 Wells Across Minnesota

Posted at: 11/15/2013 6:51 PM
By: Sean Boswell

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- "If nitrates are present, that usually means you're having a contamination to your water source," said Charles Zawaira, an environmental analyst at the Olmsted County Department of Health.

Nitrates in wells can be caused by a number of things. 

"Pesticides, fertilizers, things of that nature," said Zawaira.

Back in 2011, 62% of wells monitored by the state of Minnesota had "excessive" pollution in them. The main issue was fertilizer. 

"Something happens at a big farm place and a spill happens, and that stuff finds its way into natural water sources, that's gonna have an effect on the levels of those parameters in the water in those regions," said Zawaira.

However, not all wells are on farms. 

"The water is still tested at least once a year and in the last 20 years we have never had a bad report on our well water,” said Roxanne Ziecina of the Olmsted County Historical Society.

The historical society uses well water for nearly everything but drinking.

"The wells are chlorinated at least once a year. That means you put chlorine down and let it sit and flush all of the piping that takes care of bacteria contamination," said Ziecina.

Zawaira says, of the samples tested in Olmsted County, only 10% were unsafe to drink from. He says kids are most at risk when it comes to unsafe water. 

“You could potentially see problems in babies and infants if they were to consume water that had nitrates in it," said Zawaira.

Older and shallower wells tend to have the highest nitrate levels. IT is advised to test private wells at least once every three years.