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Laporte couple 'grateful' for nitrate testing

In an effort to broaden its free nitrate testing service, the Hubbard County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) offered to conduct tests at Laporte's Fourth of July celebration last summer.

Shirley and Dean Schmidt were among the 80 residents who had their private well water examined that day.

They were also surprised when their drinking water exceeded the nitrate concentration health limit of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L).

"We were so grateful. Otherwise, I wouldn't even have thought about bringing the water in for testing" said Shirley. "Usually it's more common in shallow wells and ours are 192 feet and 95 feet, which is really rare. We were lucky we found out."

Nitrate is tasteless, odorless and colorless. Too much in drinking water can cause serious health problems for young infants.

The Schmidts have 13 grandkids and 14 great-grandchildren.

Married for 60 years, they live on Dean's family farm. They have two wells because they have 60 head of cattle that they water.

Both wells tested high for nitrate: 22 mg/L and 13 mg/L.

After the initial result, the Schmidts took water samples to RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes for further testing.

"Soil & Water suggested that we have coliform and arsenic levels tested," Shirley explained. "And there was coliform in the worst one, too."

The Schmidts contacted a well driller to treat for the bacteria. They also installed two pressure tanks, one for each well. Finally, they put in a reverse osmosis system.

The whole process took two months. In the meantime, they had to purchase bottled water, which proved expensive.

"I couldn't believe how much water it took to cook corn or spaghetti when my kids were there. It took two gallons to cook pasta," Shirley said.

The Schmidts are re-testing their new system for nitrate.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends having a routine nitrate test every two or three years, more frequently if nitrate has been detected in previous samples.

"I'd encourage people to have their wells tested, especially being such deep wells we wouldn't have thought we have a problem."

Marcel Noyes sits on the SWCD Board of Supervisors. He represents District 2 (Farden, Guthrie, Hart Lake, Hendrickson, Lakeport and Steamboat townships.)

Noyes had suggested that SWCD bring its free nitrate testing services to community events.

"We used the Laporte event as a pilot. As it turned out, it was a huge success. We'll be doing more of these," he said.

Monthly nitrate testing

On the first Friday of every month, the Hubbard SWCD offers free nitrate testing of private well water from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its office (603 North Central Ave., Park Rapids.) The test takes about 5 minutes to complete.

To collect a sample, let your faucet run for a few minutes, then collect 1 cup of water and put in a clean container. The sample does not need to be refrigerated. If you have a reverse osmosis system, please take a sample before and after the system.

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