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Dakota County: Nitrate study will expand

After a 2013 study found higher than expected nitrate concentrations in private drinking wells in some Dakota County townships, the county has decided to conduct 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 to receive a $75,767 targeted townships nitrate sampling project.

In the 2013 pilot project, MDA provided the county with a $65,348 grant to offer private well owners in Douglas, Hampton, Marshan, Nininger, Randolph, Sciota, Vermillion and Waterford townships and the cities of Coates, Hampton and Hastings the opportunity to have their wells tested free of charge. More 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.

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 3,423 households in the five additional townships and two cities.

The immediate goal of the project is to identify 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 as possible 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 sill promotes nitrogen fertilizer best management practices in townships where a significant number of wells are found to approach or exceed 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.