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Paynesville Press - July 14, 2004

Rice Lake Association to offer nitrate testing at annual meeting

By Michael Jacobson

Homeowners who rely on private wells for their drinking water can have free nitrate testing at the annual meeting and picnic of the Rice Lake Association on Saturday, July 17. The annual meeting and picnic - as well as the free nitrate testing, done by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture - will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fisher's Resort on Rice Lake.

Nitrates are the most common contaminants in Minnesota's groundwater, and a significant number of the state's wells have high nitrate levels, according to the Department of Agriculture. "Studies indicate that between five and 25 percent of the private wells in greater Minnesota have nitrate levels above the federal drinking water standard. Nitrates in drinking water have been shown to have serious health risks," said commissioner Gene Hugoson.

In order to participate in the testing, homeowners must bring at least a half cup of water in a sealable plastic bag. In order to get a good sample, run the water for five or ten minutes before filling the bag.

Homeowners with distillators, reverse osmosis, or other nitrate-removing systems should take two water samples - one before and one after the treatment process. This will determine if the nitrate-removal system is working.

Homeowners with just a water softenener need only one sample, either before or after the water softener softens the water. Only well water will be tested.

Samples should be taken no more than 24 hours before the testing. Water samples should be refrigerated and must arrive cool at the clinic. To ensure accuracy, homeowners should mark their bags with their names, their phone numbers, and a well identification number if more than one well is being tested.

Homeowners may remain anonymous by simply choosing another number to put on the sample for identification purposes.

All samples will be analyzed on the spot - the process usually takes less than five minutes - and results are given directly to the homeowner. If nitrate levels are elevated, homeowners will be directed to a certified lab to retest the water.

For more information about the testing or about the RLA annual meeting and picnic, contact Rice Lake Association president Kay Hanson at 320-453-2525.

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