What You Need to Know
The best protection against contaminants harming your family’s water supply is having an annual checkup of your water well system. Additional tests are suggested in special circumstances – floods, heavy rainfalls, known chemical spills – to ensure that you always have safe drinking water.
Contamination from nitrates is one of the problems that can arise after severe flooding or heavy rains in rural areas.
In blue baby syndrome, nitrates are reduced to nitrites in an infant’s stomach. When the nitrites enter the bloodstream, they interfere with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to body tissues. This can be an acute condition in which the baby’s health deteriorates rapidly in a span of a few days. It can cause shortness of breath, increased susceptibility to illness, heart attacks, and even death by asphyxiation.
Older children and adults are able to withstand higher levels of nitrates than babies because of stronger stomach acids that kill the bacteria. However, there have been reports that nitrates could potentially be linked to gastrointestinal cancer. The EPA also says that long-term exposure to water over the maximum contaminant level can cause diuresis (excessive discharge of urine), increased starchy deposits, and hemorrhaging of the spleen.
Methods such as reverse osmosis or a disposable mixed-bed deionizer work best on point-of-use systems (installed in places such as the kitchen sink where water is mostly used for drinking or cooking). Ion exchange, used along with a water softening system, can provide a whole-house solution for nitrate contamination.
Consult a licensed and/or certified ground water contractor for more information. A listing of NGWA-member and certified groundwater contractors is available on this Web site.