Private landowners living in the Zumbro River Watershed in southeastern Rice County are eligible to receive free well water testing kits from the Tap-In Safe Drinking Water for SE MN program and the Rice Soil & Water Conservation District.
The “Tap In” initiative was started by SWCDs and counties in southeastern Minnesota and is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Accelerated Implementation Grant Program. Well-testing is also a priority in the Greater Zumbro River Water Management Plan developed by the Watershed Alliance for the Greater Zumbro River.
Land located in the Zumbro River Watershed (portions of Walcott, Richland, and Wheeling Townships in Rice County) are vulnerable to groundwater contamination because the area sits on karst topography. Karst also covers parts of Bridgewater, Northfield, Cannon City, Wells, Warsaw, and Morristown townships.
The “Karst” landscape of southeastern Minnesota is characterized by shallow layers of soil/sediment over bedrock. Sinkholes, springs, caves, disappearing streams, rolling hills, and large bluffs and valleys can be present. Because the soil depth is shallow and unstable in some locations, contaminants can easily find their way into groundwater.
Due to these conditions, private landowners throughout the region may be concerned about the potential contamination of well water. Regular testing and following the federal safe drinking water standards set by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is recommended for private well systems.
The free kits test well water for nitrogen, arsenic, and manganese; three common contaminants often found in contaminated wells. Nitrogen contamination, which comes from fertilizer used in agriculture, can affect how blood carries oxygen and can cause a serious illness called methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome). The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that wells be tested every other year for nitrogen contamination.
Arsenic is found naturally in soil and rocks but dissolves into water. Arsenic contamination into drinking water can cause reduced intelligence in children and increased risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and skin problems. Wells should be tested at least once for arsenic contamination.
Manganese is also found naturally in soil and rocks. Manganese is a nutrient needed by the human body, but too much of it can cause problems. Manganese contamination can cause problems with memory, attention, and motor skills. It can also cause learning and behavior problems in infants and children. Wells should be tested at least once for manganese contamination, especially if children live in the household.
If high levels of any of these contaminants are found, financial assistance may be available to private well owners to fix the contamination problem. Funding can be used for well repair, well reconstruction, or the installation of well water treatment equipment.
If you live in the Zumbro River Watershed and would like to receive a free well testing kit, contact Steve Pahs with the Rice Soil and Water Conservation District at 507-332-5408. To learn more about the program, visit the district’s website at http://www.riceswcd.org/programs/well-and-groundwater-protection/.