Conservation District to host free water testing

The Mason-Lake Conservation District is hosting an open house in celebration of 80 years of service.

The Mason-Lake Conservation District is hosting an open house in celebration of 80 years of service.

Photo courtesy of Mason-Lake Conservation District

BALDWIN — Mason-Lake Conservation District will be hosting free well water screening days to help homeowners ensure that they have safe drinking water.

Testing dates will be:

  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at the Manistee Conservation District in Bear Lake;
  • 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Mason-Lake Conservation District in Scottville; and
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Wenger Pavilion in Baldwin.

This program is made possible through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), a state-funded grant program held at Mason-Lake Conservation District. This program strives to protect groundwater and help agriculture and forest managers to advance environmental stewardship on their lands.

There are several factors that could result in well water being contaminated. With nitrate or nitrite water contamination, factors to consider are the potential nitrogen sources that are present on the surface, 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 will 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 for not only the home, but the farm as well.


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 has a lid, and must be collected within 48 hours of dropping off the sample.
  • Samples must be at least a 1-ounce sample and must be kept cool (refrigerated) until time of testing.
  • Before taking a sample, water must be run 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.

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 (EGLE) has additional tests available for other drinking water contaminants. Call the Mason-Lake Conservation District office at (231) 757-3707 ext. 5 or visit for further information.