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What is Nitrate

Public health engineering What is nitrates
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  What is nitrate?  Nitrates and nitrites are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units which combine with various organic and inorganic compounds. Uses for nitrate.  The greatest use of nitrates is as a fertilizer. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted to nitrites. If you are concerned about nitrate in a private well, please visit:    EPA's private drinking water wells website     Water Systems Council website  What are nitrate s health effects?  Infants below six months who drink water containing nitrate in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome. This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for nitrate. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with nitrate in drinking water when the rule was finalized. Top of page  What are EPA s drinking water regulations for nitrate?  In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water. The MCLG for nitrate is 10 mg/L or 10 ppm. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for nitrate, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 10 mg/L or 10 ppm. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies. In this case, the MCL equals the MCLG, because analytical methods or treatment technology do not pose any limitation. The Phase II Rule , the regulation for nitrate, became effective in 1992. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each  contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed nitrate as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the 10 mg/L or 10 ppm MCLG and 10 mg/L or 10 ppm MCL for nitrate are still protective of human health.    More information on the Six Year Review of Drinking Water Standards. States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for nitrate than EPA. Top of page  How does nitrate get into my drinking water?  The major sources of nitrates in drinking water are runoff from fertilizer use; leaking from septic tanks, sewage; and erosion of natural deposits. A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.    EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) website provides information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, and land. Top of page  How will I know if nitrate is in my drinking water?  When routine monitoring indicates that nitrate levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of nitrate so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 24 hours after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.    See EPA's public notification requirements for public water systems. If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.    For more information on wells, go to EPA's website on private wells. Top of page  How will nitrate be removed from my drinking water?  The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing nitrate to below 10 mg/L or 10 ppm: ion exchange, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis.  Top of page  How do I learn more about my drinking water?  EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book's government listings are a good starting point for local information. Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.    The CCR summarizes information regarding sources used (i.e., rivers, lakes,   reservoirs, or aquifers), detected contaminants, compliance and educational   information.     Some water suppliers have posted their annual reports on EPA's website.  Other EPA websites      Find an answer or ask a question about drinking water contaminants on EPA's Question and Answer website or call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791    EPA Integrated Risk Information System  END Nitrates (NO3) are an essential source of nitrogen (N) for plants. When nitrogen fertilizers are used to enrich soils, nitrates may be carried by rain, irrigation and other surface waters through the soil into ground water. Human and animal wastes can also contribute to nitrate contamination of ground water. In Benton and Franklin Counties, agricultural practices have been linked to elevated levels of nitrates in drinking water. Although any well can become contaminated by nitrates, shallow, poorly constructed, or improperly located wells are more susceptible to contamination. Nitrate levels in drinking water can also be an indicator of overall water quality. Elevated nitrate levels may suggest the possible presence of other contaminants such as disease-causing organisms, pesticides, or other inorganic and organic compounds that could cause health problems. Who is at risk from high nitrates in drinking water?  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of nitrate as nitrogen (NO3-N) at 10 mg/L (or 10 parts per million) for the safety of drinking water. Nitrate levels at or above this level have been known to cause a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants under six months of age called methemoglobinemia or blue-baby syndrome; in which there is a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. The symptoms of blue-baby syndrome can be subtle and often confused with other illnesses. An infant with mild to moderate blue-baby syndrome may have diarrhea, vomiting, and/or  be lethargic. In more serious cases, infants will start to show obvious symptoms of cyanosis: the skin, lips or nailbeds may develop a slate-gray or bluish color and the infant could have trouble breathing. A sample of the infant’s blood can easily confirm a diagnosis of blue -baby syndrome. It is difficult to determine the true incidence of blue-baby syndrome in Washington State because it is not a reportable disease. Others at risk from excess nitrates in drinking water are:    Pregnant women   Individuals with reduced gastric acidity, and   Individuals with a hereditary lack of methemoglobin reductase. In addition, some health studies have suggested that exposure to high levels of nitrates could lead to some forms of cancer, but results are inconclusive Testing recommendations:  The only way to know if your drinking water is contaminated with nitrates is to have it tested. If you own a single family (domestic) well, it is recommended that you test your water every three years for nitrates; more often if you live in an area with a history of high nitrate levels or if someone in your home is at risk from nitrate contamination. What to do if you have high nitrates in your drinking water:  If your drinking water sample tested above the MCL for nitrates and you or someone else in your home is at risk of developing health problems due to high nitrates, it is recommended that you do not drink the water. Find a safe, alternative water supply until you decide on a more permanent solution. There is no simple way to remove all nitrates from your water. Finding and correcting the source of nitrate contamination is the best course of action. Although it is common to think of boiling, softening or filtration as a means of purifying water, none of these methods reduce nitrate contamination. In fact, boiling water that contains high nitrates can actually increase the nitrate concentration. Reverse osmosis, ion exchange and distillation units could conceivably provide home treatment for removing nitrates from water, but those processes can be complicated, expensive, and generally require routine maintenance. Activated carbon and other simple filters do not remove nitrates to any significant degree. Home treatment units are generally not recommended, particularly as a permanent solution to assure nitrate-free water for infant use. Your only long-term option may be to find a new source of water. This can be achieved by either drilling a new well or connecting to a public water supply system that has acceptable nitrate levels. When selecting a new well (or looking for sources of nitrate contamination around your existing well), be sure to consider
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