Nitrate is a compound that is naturally formed when nitrogen is added with ozone or oxygen.
In general, nitrogen is important for all living things. However, when there are excessive amounts of nitrate in the drinking water, then it can possibly pose a health risk. This is especially true for pregnant women, babies, elderly, and sickly.
Also, nitrates are made due to large amounts that can be found in the animals and plants. These can be released in the air through the automotive exhaust or big industries.
Thus, in this article, we will discuss ways on how one can remove the nitrates in their drinking water inside the home. Furthermore, it will also tackle the guidelines as well as the initiatives of the government in protecting water resources of the community.
Drinking Water Standard by the US EPA
To protect the health of the people, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plus the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has set the limits and the standards for nitrates level in the public water supplies.
According to the agency, the supplies must not be more than 45 mg/L of nitrate or 10 mg/L of nitrate-nitrogen.
Although the private wells do not fall under the jurisdiction of the DEP or the EPA, it is still best to have the limits according to these parameters.
Finally, the presence of the nitrates can be an indicator of other contaminants in the water supply. There are more substances in the water that can be harmful than the nitrates such as pesticides.
As such, if you have discovered nitrates in the water supply, you might want to have the water tested for other substances which can be a potential source of contaminants in the area.
How do Nitrates and Nitrites Get in the Water?
Nitrates can be found in the drinking water through the erosion of the natural deposits in the soil. However, they do not pose great health problems to the people.
But in recent years, various human activities like the application of manure and fertilizer are gradually becoming the major source of the rising concentrations of nitrates in the drinking water.
The irrigation waters or even the rain can carry the nitrates into streams or rivers down the soil until it reaches the aquifers.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the three major causes of nitrate contamination are the erosion of natural deposits, runoff due to excessive use of fertilizers, and leaking from septic tanks.
Now, there is a direct correlation between nitrates and nitrites. When the nitrates are ingested in the body of a human being or even an animal via the food or water, the nitrates will be converted into nitrites.
Risks of Having Too High Nitrate Levels
As long as the nitrate levels in the drinking water are below the standard or the maximum contaminant level set by the US EPA, then there is no need to panic. However, if animals or people drink water that has nitrate MCL of high levels, it can possibly cause some health concerns.
According to the Safe Water Drinking Water Act, the US EPA has set the maximum contaminant level of nitrate which is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) only.
According to scientific studies, nitrates make it hard for the red blood cells to transport the oxygen throughout the body.
The blood absorbs the nitrite and hemoglobin which carries the oxygen is being converted to methemoglobin. When it becomes the methemoglobin, it fails to carry the oxygen efficiently. As such, it can possibly result in reduced oxygen level supply which is very crucial to tissues in the body just like the brain.
Effects on Babies
Meanwhile, the US EPA has stated in their official site that babies who drink water which contains nitrate that has excessive contaminant level can become seriously sick or may possibly die if left untreated.
Infants who age 0-4 months old can have the nitrate converted into nitrite in their stomach. As the nitrite bonds in the red blood cells oxygen molecules, it can possibly suffocate the baby.
Some of the obvious symptoms of the nitrate poisoning is having bluish skin color which can be around the mouth and the eyes. If it is detected at an early stage, methemoglobinemia can be rarely fatal. With this, it can be diagnosed readily and reversed with clinical treatment.
After reaching six months, methemoglobinemia can become less threatening since the nitrate-converting bacteria will not be present anymore in the stomach of the baby.
Effects on the Elderly, Sickly, and Pregnant Moms
Furthermore, the same is true for those who are chronically ill, old people, pregnant moms, and for most people.
Pregnant mothers can pass the methemoglobin in the fetuses. Also, the low birth weights have been known to be due to high nitrates in the water.
On the other hand, the nursing mothers cannot pass the nitrites to their babies via the breast milk. Meanwhile, the children who age around 12 to 14 have been known to have delayed reactions to sound and light stimuli. This is due to the drinking water with nitrate contaminants of greater than 105 mg/L.
In general, the consumption of nitrates in the drinking water does not have a significant health risk to adults according to the studies done by the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Sciences.
How do I Know if the Nitrate Level of my Drinking Water is Too High?
If you have heard statements that of high nitrate in your neighbor or community, you may now start to think the condition of the water inside your home. Since the nitrates are odorless and colorless, the only method to know if the nitrates concentration in your water is above the maximum contaminant level is through a water test. This can be provided by your local water treatment expert.
If you are receiving the water from a municipal water treatment plant, the municipalities are required to treat and test their water. This must pass the guidelines as set by the EPA to prevent the contamination. However, the pipes that carry the water inside the home can be the leading cause of the increasing nitrate levels in the water.
According to the World Health Organization, nitrites can be chemically formed in the pipes by the Nitrosomonas bacteria. This happens whenever the water with nitrate and the poor-oxygen level becomes stagnant in the galvanized steel pipes.
Also, this can be possible if chlorination is used to have a residual disinfectant plus the process is improperly controlled.
Finally, some of the households in America is not connected to the city water. However, they use the well water, and these are oftentimes contaminated with high levels of nitrate on it.
Removal of Nitrates in the Water
Reverse Osmosis and Ion Exchange Technology
If you now have a nitrate problem, you may wish to opt for bottled water as the major source of drinking or cooking inside your house temporarily. This is especially true if you have a family member who is at risks such as the pregnant mother, infant, or old people.
However, for a long-term basis, there can be various possible methods in the removal of nitrates in the water. These are the ion exchange technology, distillation, and the reverse osmosis.
The reverse osmosis is the most common application. This is popular to successfully remove around 83 to 92% of nitrates in the water which is within the acceptable levels.
Together with the nitrate or nitrite removal, the reverse osmosis technology can eliminate the impurities in the water. This includes the bacteria, inorganics, organics, and the particulates.
One choice in addressing the nitrate issues is through the use of ion exchange technology. The ion exchange technology of the Berkey can effectively reduce the water hardness and prevent the scale buildup inside the home.
When the nitrates are removed from the water, the water quality can be automatically be boosted. With this, the water flow inside the home can be better for you and the whole family.
Distillation is a traditional technique that can remove the minerals and other chemicals in the water. Water is boiled, then it becomes cool, and it condenses.
As the water is condensed, it becomes free of salts, solids, and heavy metals that won’t volatilize. As the water is boiled, it can also inactivate the microorganisms.
Meanwhile, distillers have also some limitations. It entails slow process just like the reverse osmosis. A typical unit inside the home can produce a gallon of water every four to five hours.
The distillation can use much energy and can produce heat which taxes the air conditioners, especially during the summer season.
Now, the cost of the energy can be about 30 cents per gallon. In the long run, such units can require regular cleaning to eliminate the scales accumulated.
Tips in Reduction of Nitrates
The US EPA states that the homeowners who wash the herbicides and the fertilizers down the storm sewers can end up into the streams. You can help in reducing the fertilizers and the pesticides in the waterways by doing some of the useful tips:
- In spreading the granular feed or weed type of fertilizer, make sure that you must keep it on the lawn. If the granules accidentally land on the paved areas, make sure to sweep them on the grass.
- In using the liquid herbicide, make sure that you don’t overspray the lawn and do not spray it whenever the day is windy. With this, the herbicide may possibly get on the sidewalk or the street and wash into the storm sewer. Also, they can possibly drift into the sensitive garden plants and shrubs or even on the property line.
- Whenever you wish to clean the herbicide or fertilizer application machine, the water used to rinse the equipment may possibly contain small amounts of chemicals. As such, make sure not to wash the equipment in the driveway and make sure not to dump the water in the sewer grate or the gutter. Also, apply the rinse water into the lawn.
Also, you may find it helpful to use some weed killer or organic fertilizers. There are various DIY weed killers that are available online. These solutions are very affordable, and they are much better for Mother Earth.
Consider the Source
In the long run, the prevention of the nitrate contamination directly at the source is the best way to treat it. As such, it is best to prioritize the nitrate at its source.
First, you must check your septic system and see if the absorption field can properly handle the wastewater. Also, it is a must to consider checking the water well. Look if it constructed properly with cover, casing, and grouting. Investigate if it can prevent the surface water from entering the well.
Also, check if there is an adequate diversion ditch that can keep the runoff from the well. Try to look if the well itself is shallow or deep.
The location of the well must be considered if it is near an agricultural area. If such is the case, then it is possible that it draws all the nitrate-contaminated groundwater from it. Remember: shallow wells plus the springs are prone to having high nitrate contamination in it.
As you discover the source of the nitrate in the water, make sure to take necessary actions to eliminate the nitrate leaching. For failures in the septic systems, this may mean replacement of the drainage field or having the tank pumped.
For contamination in the wells, you can solve the problem by diverting the surface water away from the well. Also, it is best to make sure that the good casing can extend for at least one foot above the ground plus it must have a proper cap. If the well is too shallow, it is best to develop a new well that can drain the water from a less contaminated aquifer.
With the nitrate leaching in the agricultural lands, there can be less control of the source of the nitrate. However, another option is through the use of treatment equipment. You might opt to mix the low and high nitrate water.
Yes, it can reduce the total mixed nitrate concentration. However, the blended liquid might still not be safe especially for the babies.
Berkey Water Filtration System
Finally, one effective way to remove the nitrates in the drinking water is through the use of the Berkey Water Filter System.
The Berkey water filters have two chambers which are the upper and lower chamber. It works via gravity wherein whenever the source water is poured in the upper chamber, the gravity enables the water to make its way through the lower chamber.
The Berkey filters feature a high-performance filtration system versus other brands. According to laboratory tests done at Environmental Toxicology Laboratory in Los Angeles, the Berkey Water Filters can remove nitrates up to 95%.
The Royal Berkey 3.25 Gallon Water Filter Special Set
One product that can aid in the removal of nitrates is the Royal Berkey 3.25 gallon water filter special set. It comes with 2 black Berkey elements and 2 fluoride filters.
This product is good for medium-sized families and even for outdoor activities. It can serve 2 to 4 people everyday with normal use, and it has a capacity of 3.25 gallons.
Grab the Royal Berkey Water FIlter now here!
Big Berkey 2.25 Gallon Water Filter Special Set
Another innovation of the Berkey company is the Big Berkey 2.25 gallon water filter special set.
This product can reduce nitrites, nitrates, and other unhealthy minerals just like mercury and lead.
Many families opt for the Big Berkey for its perfect use for everyday living, outdoor activities, and even during emergencies.
Grab the Big Berkey Water Filter now here!
If you recognize these facts about nitrates in the drinking water, then it can possibly help one create wise decisions about the water quality.
Though the nitrates concern many American residents, proper testing will confirm the issue. Thereafter, proper treatment can be able to eliminate it.
It is also best to use innovative products such as what the Berkey offers in the market now.
EcoBlueLife.com is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on TheBerkey.com