Nitrate


What is Nitrate?
Nitrate (chemical symbol “NO3”) and related nitrogen compounds (i.e., nitrite, ammonia, organic nitrogen) occur naturally in soil, water, plants, and food. Nitrate is the more stable oxidized form of combined nitrogen in most environmental media. Most nitrogenous materials in natural waters tend to be converted to nitrate. Groundwater levels of nitrate may range from 20 ppb (ug/L) or more, with higher levels characteristically occurring in shallow aquifers beneath areas of extensive development. Major sources of nitrates in drinking water include agricultural or residential fertilizer use, sewage, animal feedlots, landfills, and faulty septic systems. Other sources include golf courses and natural deposits.

How is Nitrate tested?
A properly collected sample must be obtained. The “holding time” (i.e., time which nitrate must be analyzed, if not preserved as per certain methods, after sample collection) is 48 hours. There are a few NJDEP certified test methods for nitrate such as cadmium reduction, ion chromatography, and ion selective electrode. The detection limits vary by method and instrumentation. The test method must achieve a detection limit lower than the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).

What is the current Standard?
Nitrate is a constituent classified as a “primary” standard and has a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 ppm (mg/L – milligrams per Liter).

What are the potential Health Effects with ingesting Nitrate in water?
Nitrate contaminated drinking water is of concern because it affects human and livestock health. Potential health effects include methemoglobulinemia, a form of anemia, caused by the body’s reduction of nitrate to nitrite. Also known as Blue-Baby Disease”, it can cause asphyxia. Infants up to three months of age are the most susceptible with regard to nitrate because 100 percent of the ingested nitrate can be transformed to nitrite in the infant. Basically, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues is decreased. Pregnant women are also more susceptible.

Should I continue to use my water if Nitrate is found above the MCL?
The answer is no for drinking water consumption. You should alert the local health agency and follow their advice. Also, do not boil water as a method of treatment because this can increase the levels of nitrate as the water evaporates.

What steps can I take to reduce Nitrate levels in my water?

Short Term:
purchase bottled water.
Long Term: 1.) Connect to public water 2.) Well replacement 3.) Water Treatment: Point of Entry Treatment System (POET) or Point of Use (POU) Treatment System such as distillation, anion exchange, and reverse osmosis. 4.) Contact you local Health Agency and a Water Treatment Professional.
If you install a water treatment system, be sure to conduct another test after the water has been treated to verify that the system is working effectively.

Where can I go for more information?
Your best help may be your local Health Agency. Also, go to the Helpful Links section of this website.


This information is meant to serve as a basic overview of the material discussed. Always obtain professional advice prior to implementing a plan of action.