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PWMS students test water for nitrates

Submitted photo Perham High School student Jacob Guehna, right, assists eighth grader Sara Herrmann with the sampling process.

The East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District, along with staff from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, recently gave a nitrate presentation to Rondi Ulmer's eighth grade science classes at Prairie Wind Middle School in Perham.

The water-testing day was a culminating activity for the end of a water quality unit that students had been working on since the beginning of the year.

Luke Stuewe, MDA soil scientist, highlighted the importance of preventing the contamination of groundwater resources and the potential health concerns of elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water.

Students learned that the safe drinking water standard is 10 parts per million (ppm) of nitrates and that levels above 10 ppm can increase the risk of "Blue Baby Syndrome" in infants less than six months of age.

Stuewe also provided students with a brief overview of the Wellhead Protection Plan, which the city of Perham has in place to ensure its citizens have access to a clean water supply.

Aaron Salo, district technician, showed students ways in which the Soil and Water Conservation District assists landowners with the designing, planning, and installation of conservation practices within Otter Tail County. A few examples are native grass and tree plantings, wetland buffers, shore land restorations and unused well sealing.

Following the presentations, students were able to test for nitrates in water samples they had collected. High school students Matt Hanson and Jacob Guehna were on hand to assist the eighth graders through the testing process. In total, 155 samples were tested; six of those tested above the standard 10 ppm.