Free water sample testing for nitrates and nitrites available

LAKE COUNTY — Free well testing is available to residents of Lake, Mason and Manistee counties through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program hosted by the Mason-Lake Conservation District.

Testing will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 21 at the Mason-Lake Conservation District in Scottville; from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday July 22 at the Manistee Conservation District in Bear Lake; and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday July 23 at the Elk Township Hall in Irons.

There are many factors that could lead to your drinking water being contaminated. With nitrate or nitrite water contamination, factors could include the potential nitrate sources that are present, the type of soil and bedrock, and the depth and construction of the well. Nitrate sources could include fertilizer from farming and homeowners’ yards, animal wastes, septic systems, or municipal and industrial sewage treatment systems.

All infants under the age of six months could be at a risk of nitrate poisoning. Using water that is high in nitrate and/or nitrite for feeding or formula mixing, can lead to a condition called blue baby syndrome and can be fatal. Infants exposed to nitrates can ultimately lose the oxygen carrying capacity of their blood, depriving them of oxygen.

Blue baby syndrome symptoms include, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or being sluggish or tired. In serious cases, a bluish color will appear on skin, lips, and around fingernails.

Nitrate poisoning isn’t only a concern in humans, it can also happen in livestock, especially ruminant animals, such as cattle and sheep. Therefore, it is important to get your water tested for contaminants.

Nitrates cannot be detected through sight, taste, or smell. The only way to test for nitrates is by chemical testing.

Once a year, the Mason-Lake Conservation District hosts a free private well water testing day. Anyone with a private well can bring in water samples to get tested for nitrates.

Water sample forms can be completed in person at the time of testing, or can be printed from the Mason-Lake Conservation District website. Samples can be collected with any small container that contains a lid, and must be collected no more than 48 hours in advance.

Samples must be at least a 1-ounce sample and must be kept refrigerated until time of testing. Also, make sure to run water for at least 20 minutes prior to collecting the sample to ensure accuracy.

If nitrate levels are at or above the health standard of 10PPM, well owners will be contacted with information concerning the risks of nitrates and further steps to take.

This program strives to protect groundwater and help agriculture and forest managers to advance environmental stewardship on their lands.

If well owners wish to do additional testing, the local health department can do testing for bacteria and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has additional tests available for other drinking water contaminants.

For more information call the Mason-Lake Conservation District office at 231-757-3707 ext. 5 or visit