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Well Water

For a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, have your water tested while you are pregnant. Testing water from private wells before your baby is born is very important to make sure that the water in your household is safe for you and your baby.

Safe drinking waterPrivate water supplies are not tested or regulated by the public health department. It is your responsibility to make sure your family's water is safe. You can not always see, taste, or smell contaminants that may be a health risk. The only way to identify if they are in your drinking water is to have your water tested at a laboratory.

Nitrate in drinking water presents a serious problem for infants up to about six months of age. Through changes in a baby's stomach, too much nitrate can reduce the amount of oxygen carried by blood. This can cause "blue baby syndrome" (methemoglobinemia) in which fingertips, toes, and/or lips turn blue due to insufficient oxygen. Blue baby syndrome may be misdiagnosed when parents or doctors assume the baby is just cold. In severe cases blue baby syndrome can be life threatening.

Never boil water that has nitrate in it. Boiling concentrates nitrate in the water left in the pan and can make the problem worse. Nitrate levels can be reduced by using reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is not safe for water that has bacteria in it. If you are pregnant or have small children, you may also want to test for lead or fluoride.

How Much Will it Cost?   Tests for nitrate and coliform bacteria cost about $20 at a certified laboratory. Assistance may be available for low-income families. You can check with your community health service or physician for low-income testing.

What to Test For   Private water supplies are usually tested for nitrate and coliform bacteria. If either of these are present, it indicates contamination in the well and a potential health risk. Bacteria and nitrate together may indicate that waste-water from a septic system or feedlot is reaching the well. Nitrate alone may result from excessive fertilizer use.  The Minnesota Department of Health has information related to contaminants in private wells. The health-based limit for nitrates is 10 parts per million (ppm). Water containing nitrates at levels above 10 ppm should never be given to infants less than 6 months old.

When to Test   Have your water tested as soon as you find out you are pregnant. This will help guarantee a healthy pregnancy for you and your developing baby. This will also give you time to correct the water quality problems before your baby is born.  Some contaminants pose a health risk to the baby during the pregnancy while others are a risk after birth. Have your water tested before bringing home an adopted infant or having other children visit. Wells less than 50 feet deep or older than 25 years should be tested every year.

Where to have your Water Tested   When you decide to have your water tested, be sure to select a lab that is certified by the MN Department of Health.  Certified labs have to meet state standards to ensure their analytical methods are correct and accurate. The following are certified labs in the Kandiyohi County area:

RMB Environmental Labs
22796 County Highway 6, Detroit Lakes MN
Phone 218-846-1465

1126 N Front St, New Ulm, MN 56073
(507) 354-8517

DHIA Laboratories
825 12th St. S., PO Box 227, Sauk Centre, MN  56378

Carefully follow directions as you take the water sample and deliver it to the lab. Water must be analyzed within 24 hours after it is collected to provide reliable results.

What if Water is Unsafe?   If analysis shows that your water is unsafe, you may be able to treat it. Contact our office or a licensed well contractor for further guidelines on reducing contamination levels in your well water.  Water contaminated with bacteria can be disinfected by boiling water or by chlorinating the well. Minnesota Department of Health Wells Division factsheets on Wells Disinfection.

Who can provide more information on....?
    • nitrate in drinking water
    • blue baby syndrome
    • health effects of lead on fetal and child development
    • fluoride in drinking water
    • water testing and standards
    • private water supplies
    • wastewater treatment systems

Ask your doctor or contact:
• Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services at 320-231-7800
• Minnesota Department of Health - Water Wells Management
• Private interests such as analytical labs, water well contractors and water treatment distributors.