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High Nitrates, High Iron, Should I Get My Well Tested?


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This is my fresh-from-the-tap test. You can see nitrates are pretty high - somewhere between 20-40 (I can never tell the difference).

I also suspect I have high iron. My plants seem to grow red really easily, including guppy grass, under relatively inexpensive lights. Hair algae is by far the most prevalent type and seems to be basically unstoppable. I do not regularly dose with fertilizer at all. 

I have not, so far, run into fish issues with this. My plants seem to grow pretty effortlessly. But I am mildly concerned and thinking I should maybe invest in actual well testing, and depending on the advice, an RO unit? 

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I was recommended the coliform/e coli bacteria and nitrates test at $50, wondering if there are others I should select. OR, do I skip a step and look at reducing nitrates since wherever they're at, it's probably above what's considered healthy for drinking water?

We have a water softener that is not currently in use as well. Looking for just general advice on dealing with this.

 

Edited by RovingGinger
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2 minutes ago, RovingGinger said:

IMG_5971.jpg.14113af9d8d4c22c1056d0fa490ab425.jpg

This is my fresh-from-the-tap test. You can see nitrates are pretty high - somewhere between 20-40 (I can never tell the difference).

I also suspect I have high iron. My plants seem to grow red really easily, including guppy grass, under relatively inexpensive lights. I do not regularly dose with fertilizer at all. 

I have not, so far, run into fish issues with this. My plants seem to grow pretty effortlessly. But I am mildly concerned and thinking I should maybe invest in actual well testing, and depending on the advice, an RO unit? 

1774378752_ScreenShot2020-10-27at7_59_43AM.png.e7c5fdc594995fd54d7ac058028cb85a.png

I was recommended the coliform/e coli bacteria and nitrates test at $50, wondering if there are others I should select. OR, do I skip a step and look at reducing nitrates since wherever they're at, it's probably above what's considered healthy for drinking water?

We have a water softener that is not currently in use as well. Looking for just general advice on dealing with this.

 

Hi Ginger, I lived with well water for a long time. Is it possible your county or state water department might test your water for you? They might be able to do several tests on that list for a lower price. 

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Good advice, @Maggie. Or alternatively, if there's a place that sells water softeners and the salt and other supplies that go with the softeners, sometimes they will test your water for free for you.  Or course, they're hoping to make a sale, so you might have to listen to a spiel for that test, but it would save lots of moolah for you! 

Wells are such arbitrary things. We had a well in Virginia that was just beautiful. Wonderful for drinking, a lovely almost sweet taste to the water. All our fish were happy, happy.   Then we moved to the east coast of Florida where all the wells pulled up hard water, full of iron and yucky! Seriously, you could tell everyone who had sprinkler systems in their lawns by the red arcs of rust-colored iron on the outside wall of their house. We had fish there, too, but none of them really thrived. We did have a couple of happy, happy crayfish there, but that's about it.

If in doubt, I'd say get it tested. But save yourself some money with a little research to find a cheaper test. Best of luck with it, @RovingGinger!

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4 minutes ago, Maggie said:

@akconklin my well water in upstate NY was awful!! It smelled like sulfur and we had to buy our drinking water.  I didn't have fish then but don't think that water would have been good for them. I don't know what else was in it but it was horrible. 

Yep, it was the same for us on the east coast. Even after the water softener, you still couldn't drink the water or use it for cooking. And the sulfur smell was so yuck!!! In fact, we used to share this as a joke - the water had so many metals/minerals/etc in it, that when we took a hot shower and the steam rolled out the bathroom door, it would set off the smoke alarms!!! Ugh!

Now I deal with city water. It smells like chlorine, even when the test strips say "0 ppm". I have my doubts! Always something to battle when dealing with our tanks. It's an interesting hobby, though, that seems to make you more aware of your surroundings, utilities, water sources, air quality, etc. It keeps the brain agile!!!😆

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An Inductively Coupled Plasma mass spectrometry test is pretty cheap and fairly accurate these days.

This test is $30 and will test for 40+ elements in your water. I have used it and thought it was reasonably priced

Included in the tests are pH, GH, and KH too.

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@RovingGinger You should seriously consider professional testing if you see that much nitrate at  the tap. I do my well every two years because I have a few things I need to watch.

As for nitrates, nitrates above 10mgl measured as NO3-N can have long-term health affects on humans and can be lethal to infants under the age of 6 months, causing something called blue-baby syndrome.

An API test kit does not measure NO3-N. It measures NO3 instead. But it's easy to convert between the two. It is my understanding that 10mgl NO3-N will show up as about about 45ppm nitrates in an API kit.

Link below shows how to do the conversion --

SUPPORT.HACH.COM

Your partner in Water Quality - Find expert answers and outstanding support you can depend on

Anyway, if you suspect you're anywhere near that number, you should seriously consider having a professional test your well. 

My well is about a 8.5mgl NO3-N, and has some other fun stuff like traces of arsenic.

Like I said, I test bi-annually just to keep ahead of things and avoid any invisible health concerns lurking in there that could affect my family.

If you've never done a well test before, you should do a full test for everything so you know what you're drinking. In my area, those run around $400 last time I had one performed (I believe I tested for everything including radon). After doing a full test, you can do more targeted testing every two or so years to watch items of concern.

Targeted testing is less expensive. But as always, ask a professionals for his or her advice. I'm not a professional at all, but I can relate my experience to you based on being in a similar situation and having had my well tested as a result. 

Below is the CDC information concerning nitrates in well water --

WWW.CDC.GOV

Education and information about nitrate and drinking water from private wells, including definitions, symptoms of methemoglobinemia, how methemoglobinemia is diagnosed, how it can be treated, and...

 

Edited by tolstoy21
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