Nitrate testing free in Mower Co.

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

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SWCD offers service for month of March for well water samples

Mower County residents who get their drinking water from a well can have a sample tested for nitrates at no charge during the month of March.

Starting Tuesday through March 31, the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District staff will accept samples of well water for nitrate testing at their Austin office, 1408 21st Ave. N.W., between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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Using its nitrate-testing equipment, Mower SWCD will provide a rapid test result for each well-water sample but it does not qualify as a lab-certified test, said Justin Hanson, district manager of Mower SWCD.

“Citizens with concerns or questions about nitrate levels in their drinking water are the reason for this special service,” Hanson said. “If our test shows an elevated level, then it’s a strong indicator that you should pay to do a lab-certified test.”

In those cases, Mower SWCD can provide residents with a home-testing kit and instructions for sending a water sample to Rochester for lab-certified testing, which involves a fee.

Safe levels of nitrate in drinking water are between 0 mg/L to 10 mg/L, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. When found in higher concentrations, nitrate can be dangerous, especially for human and animal health.

Infants who drink water that is high in nitrate have an increased risk of developing Blue Baby Syndrome (methemoglobinemia), which can be fatal. While scientists still are learning about the effects of nitrate on human health, it is known that nitrate increases the risk in adults for thyroid disease, colon cancer and birth defects.

Nitrate is a vital nutrient for plants and animals but also a common pollutant in Minnesota groundwater. Most nitrate pollution in groundwater comes from plant matter; human and animal waste; leaking septic systems; and fertilizers.

People wishing to have their well water tested for nitrate should run their water for 10 minutes before collecting a sample in a bottle, jar or Ziploc bag. The container should be labeled with the resident’s name along with the date and time of the sample. The sample then should be sealed and kept cold until brought to the Mower SWCD office for testing.

For more information, contact Mower SWCD at 507-434-2603, ext. 5, or send an email to district technician Larry Callahan at or Minnesota GreenCorps member Jensen Bigelow at

Landowners across Mower County who have an old or unused well that they need to seal also can work with Mower SWCD on applying for cost-share assistance with their well sealing. In two years, more than 35 wells in Mower County have been sealed through the program, said Tim Ruzek, Mower SWCD’s water plan and outreach coordinator.

Approved applicants will get 50 percent of their well sealing costs covered, with a maximum cost-share payment of $1,000 by Mower SWCD. Austin Utilities water customers still apply through Mower SWCD for well sealing cost-share assistance but then work on the cost-share payment with Austin Utilities.

For more on cost-share assistance for well sealing, contact Ruzek at 507-460-4577 or