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Nitrate testing to be offered at Farmfest

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will offer a free on-the-spot nitrate water-testing clinic at Farmfest.

The three-day agricultural exposition is Aug. 4-6 on the Gilfillan Estate in Redwood County.

The testing process will take less than five minutes and results will be given directly to the homeowner.

The clinic will be located at booth No. 619 in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture building at the junction of Sixth and Main streets.

To participate in the testing, homeowners must bring at least one-half cup of water in preferably a clean plastic or glass container. In order to get a good sample, allow the tap to run five to 10 minutes before filling the container.

Homeowners that maintain either a distillation unit, 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 properly. For systems with just a water softener, homeowners only need to take one sample, either before or after the water passes through the water softener.

Samples should be taken no more than 24 hours before the testing and should be cool when arriving at the clinic.

Participants should plan to visit the nitrate clinic early during their Farmfest visit to ensure sample quality.

Homeowners should mark the container with their name, phone number and a well identification number if more than one well is sampled. However, homeowners who wish to remain anonymous should simply choose another easily recognized number to identify their sample. It is not necessary to provide information about the well or well location.

If the nitrate level in a sample is elevated, clinic staff can refer the homeowner to certified labs that will retest the water. Minnesota Department of Agriculture staff will also be available to answer any water quality questions and provide internet resources for more information.

Nitrates are the most common contaminants in Minnesota's groundwater, and in some areas of the state a significant number of wells have high nitrate levels. With that in mind, experts recommend that farmers and others who get their drinking water from wells should test their water regularly.

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson urges people to take advantage of the free clinics.

"Nitrates in drinking water have been shown to have health risks," said Hugoson. "Minnesotans need to determine their risks and, when necessary, take appropriate steps to reduce nitrates in their drinking water."