Otter Tail County nitrate water testing that was canceled in July has been rescheduled.

The free nitrate clinics for Aug. 18 at the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District office in Fergus Falls and at the Ottertail Community Center in Ottertail on Aug. 20. The clinics run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This year’s nitrate testing clinics will be run slightly differently because of COVID-19. SWCD will be following the Department of Health and CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Participants must stay in their car for the duration of the test; staff will retrieve your sample, test it, and return to you with results. Look for designated parking spots at water testing locations.

The clinics are sponsored by the East and West Otter Tail County SWCDs. Nitrates are the most common contaminants in Minnesota’s groundwater, and a significant number of the state’s wells have high nitrate levels. In 2011, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture found that over 10% of private wells tested across the state had nitrate levels above the safe drinking water standard.

In 2017, the state Ag Department targeted several townships in the county for nitrate testing. The final results showed 2.5% of the wells tested were above the drinking water standard. Greater than 5% of the wells tested in Perham, Otter Tail, Compton, Inman, Clitherall, Elmo, and Woodside, were above the drinking water standard. Greater than 10% of the wells tested in Parkers Prairie township exceeded the drinking water standard.

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Those who would like to know more about the nitrate level in their well, please bring at least one-half cup of water in either a clean plastic or glass container or Ziploc-type bag to the nitrate testing clinic. To get a good sample, allow the water to run five to 10 minutes before filling the bag. Homeowners with distillators, reverse osmosis or other nitrate removal 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 softener need to take one sample, either before or after the water passes through the water softener. Only water from private wells will be tested, water from lakes and rivers will not be tested.

Samples should be taken no more than 24 hours before the testing, and they must be refrigerated. Samples should be cool when arriving at the clinic. To ensure accuracy, homeowners should mark the bags with their name, phone number, and a well identification number if more than one well is sampled.

Homeowners may remain anonymous. In that case, they should simply choose another easily recognized number to put on the well samples. It is not necessary to provide information about the well or well location.

Samples are analyzed on the spot the process usually takes less than five minutes and results are given directly to the homeowner. If the nitrate level in a sample is elevated, clinic staff can refer the homeowner to certified labs that will retest the water. SWCD asks that participants stay in their vehicle; staff will come out to collect the sample, run the tests, and deliver the results back.

For more information on the clinic

Ben Underhill, 218-228- 2383 or Swen Goodijohn, 218-998-5300.