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Nitrate Levels Surge in Midwestern Wells Due to Unusually Wet Spring

After last year’s extreme drought followed by this year’s unusually wet spring, water tables in Iowa are registering high levels of nitrates due to fertilizer runoff, according to the Associated Press. The nitrates are a concern for drinking water quality and public health.

According to the AP report “Nitrate levels have soared because drought-withered corn plants didn’t suck up all the nitrogen spread on fields last year. The drought was followed by Iowa’s wettest April in 141 years, and that rain washed unused fertilizer into rivers, the primary source of drinking water for 45 percent of the state’s population.”

Nitrate in well water is an issue for many agricultural areas across the U.S..  Here in California we have many customers using our custom nitrate anion filtration systems to filter nitrate from their well water.  Small communities and agricultural labor housing sites using well water are particularly vulnerable and many have to treat their water or use water from neighboring communities with lower nitrate levels.

Iowa has a lot of wells high in nitrate because about 90 percent of the state is dedicated to agriculture. Corn requires an abundant supply of nitrogen fertilizer, which must be added to the soil through the application of nitrogen fertilizer or manure.   After a dry period heavy rains can wash this nitrogen into the ground water as nitrate.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires nitrate in drinking water be kept at less than 10 milligrams per liter. Above that level can be deadly to infants younger than 6 months because the chemical can reduce the amount of oxygen carried in their blood. Pregnant women are advised not to drink water above the EPA limit, as well as adults with reduced stomach acidity.  Nitrate is also a big problem for pregnant horses and livestock and can cause miscarriages in animals.

Have a nitrate problem?   Please contact us for more information through our online technical help form.

Nitrate systems
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Corn requires large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer which can leach into groundwater
Corn requires large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer which can leach into groundwater

 

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