State providing free nitrate test for well owners in select Mower County townships

Published 6:10 am Tuesday, May 7, 2019

About 2,278 households in a dozen Mower County townships this year will receive a free nitrate-testing kit from the state for their property’s well.

Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater pollutants found in rural areas. Drinking water with high-nitrate concentrations can cause serious health effects in infants. Infants who drink water high in nitrate might develop methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby Syndrome), which can be fatal. The presence of nitrates could also be an indicator of other pollutants in water.

Mower Soil & Water Conservation District has teamed with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to bring free nitrate testing of wells to 12 of the Mower County’s 20 townships. People in those select townships with household wells will receive a free nitrate test kit in the mail starting in May along with more information about the MDA program. Each participant’s personal information will be kept confidential.

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Townships targeted by the MDA program will include Austin, Bennington, Frankford, Lansing, LeRoy, Lyle, Nevada, Pleasant Valley, Racine, Red Rock, Udolpho and Windom. MDA evaluated Mower County townships for aquifer vulnerability and proportion of land in row crop production.

Starting in mid-May, MDA officials will mail about 250 kits per week to Mower County households. Mailings will be done in alphabetical order of townships, with Austin Township getting kits first and Windom Township last.

In general, townships selected for the nitrate sampling program have greater than 30% of their land area identified as having vulnerable geology and have at least 20% of the land area in row crop production. Other local information and historic nitrate results also might have been used to select townships for testing.

Participation in this testing event will help Mower County get a better understanding of the local nitrate levels and provide rural homeowners with information on the nitrate levels of their drinking water. Private well testing is also a part of the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan, a statewide strategy to address high levels of nitrate in groundwater.

Future efforts will be focused in areas where a significant number of wells contain nitrate above or near the drinking water standard (10mg/L).

For more information, contact Mower SWCD at 507-434-2603, ext. 5, or email resource specialist Steve Lawler at