It's one of the most common groundwater contaminants, especially in rural areas. It's called nitrate and it's colorless and odorless, making it difficult to detect.
The League of Women Voters invited an expert to talk about the issue. Kevin Masarik, a groundwater education specialist talked about nitrate and explained what it is, why it can be found in water and how to prevent its presence. Masarik says that monitoring fertilizer use and farming for profitability rather than maximum yield can help reduce nitrate levels.
Most importantly, Masarik says to test your water, "So nitrate isn't something you can see, it isn't something you can smell. Really the only way you are going to be able to determine if nitrate is in your water is to have a test performed. We always encourage people to test their wells for something like nitrate at a state certified lab which La Crosse has a few, I believe the health department offers nitrate testing" said Masarik.
Masarik also says, "Looking at making sure we are not applying more fertilizer that is absolutely necessary, trying to do things to capture or scavenge some of the nitrate that is in the soil, especially those periods in the fall or the spring when there isn't a lot of root uptake. So encouraging things like cover crops is one way to help minimize or reduce the amount of nitrate that is lost to groundwater."
Water testing at a lab requires the proper bottle, so it is important to contact the lab you will be working with to secure the right bottle and receive instructions to ensure an accurate test.