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Nitrate Facts: How to Know Your Drinking Water is Safe

If you enjoy gardening, you probably know that your plants need adequate nitrogen in order to create amino acids, grow well, and thrive. Nitrates are chemical compounds that help plants and animals get the nitrogen they need.

Nitrates may be great for agriculture—but how do they impact your water supply?

Fact: Nitrates benefit plants, then the leftovers leach into groundwater.

Because ammonium nitrate is a top ingredient for many chemical fertilizers, it naturally impacts groundwater as well. Synthetics that find their way into streams, rivers, and lakes then cause a chain reaction of algae blooms, which—in turn—can lead to swampy, stagnant conditions. This isn’t great for the environment or drinking water supplies.

Fact: Nitrates are believed to be potential carcinogens.

Although this is an area of some controversy, many scientists, including some within the EPA, believe that nitrates may be carcinogens. At minimum, nitrates may be converted into nitrosamines within the body. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens, hence the concern.

Fact: Nitrate exposure is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Because Congress passed a law in 1974 (“The Safe Drinking Water Act”), local governments now regulate contaminants in area water supplies. The EPA’s safe levels for nitrate are 10 mg per liter, or 10 parts per million (ppm). This is called a maximum contaminant level, or MCL. The part of this law that refers to nitrates was revised in 1992, but the MCL remains the same.

Fact: Your city and/or water supplier is required to provide you a regular water report.

If you are not getting a report at least annually as to your local water conditions, contact your municipality and ask. If you get your water from a well on your own property, ask your local health department to check contaminant levels. Get general information on chemical use within your area by calling the community Right-to-Know hotline at 1-800-424-9346.

Fact: You can remove or reduce nitrates in your drinking water.

Water treatment companies don’t just make drinking water more palatable. Although there’s nothing wrong with desiring great-tasting water, a treatment system can also remove harmful contaminants such as nitrates. Systems that are particularly effective in this process are ion exchange, electrodialysis systems, and reverse osmosis systems.

Fact: Safe, good-tasting water is within your reach.

If you don’t like the smell or taste of your tap water, you have options. Beyond contacting your local utility representative or reading your city’s consumer confidence report every year, feel free to contact the experts at Johnson Water Conditioning Company for a complimentary water analysis. And enjoy your next refreshing, nitrate-free glass of water!

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