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Second nitrate study to be conducted in area townships

Higher than expected nitrate concentration in private drinking wells in some Dakota County townships during a 2013 study is leading to another expanded study, while also offering the opportunity for additional testing for those who participated the first time.

At its regular meeting this week, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved the execution of a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to receive a $75,767 targeted township nitrate sampling project.

In the 2013 pilot project, MDA provided the county with a $65,348 grant to offer private well owners in the townships of Douglas, Hampton, Marshan, Nininger, Randolph, Sciota, Vermillion and Waterford and the cities of Coates, Hampton and Hastings the opportunity to have their wells tested free of charge. The results revealed a higher number of wells than expected exceeded the drinking water standard for nitrates.

Now, in order to more completely evaluate the extent of nitrate contamination of groundwater in Dakota County, MDA has offered the 2014 grant to provide private well owners in Empire, Eureka, Greenvale, and Ravenna townships and the cities of Farmington and Rosemount another opportunity to have their wells tested for nitrate provide the previous well study participants another test opportunity.

This summer, Dakota County will mail postcards to well owners in the 2014 targeted communities in order to estimate how many households in each community have private drinking water wells, how old the wells are and in what aquifers the wells are completed.

The second round of sampling includes a total of 3,423 households in the five additional townships and two cities.

The immediate goal of the project is to characterize current nitrate conditions in groundwater from private wells on a township scale. The project will also educate well owners on the nitrate concentrations in their wells.

The goal is to sample as many private wells in the targeted townships, with the county responsible for the overall project coordination including working with a state certified lab to run the nitrate analysis.

The survey information is used to estimate the drinking water profile of the targeted townships.

The MDA is conducting this assessment as part of its responsibility to minimize or mitigate groundwater contamination from agricultural inputs such as nitrogen fertilizer. The MDA will promote nitrogen fertilizer best management practices in townships where a significant number of wells are found to contain above or approach the drinking water standards.

In addition to the expanded nitrate sampling, the work plan includes a budget to visit wells from the 2013 sampling round. If well owners are interested, a Dakota County representative will visit the private well for a nitrate source inventory and to resample the well.