Nitrates / Nitrites

Nitrate is a natural constituent of plants and is found in vegetables at varying levels depending on the amount of fertilizer applied.  
Health Effects?
  • In moderate amounts, nitrates are harmless (colorless, odorless and tasteless)
  • In higher amounts, nitrates can cause methemoglobinemia ("blue baby syndrome") in infants  
    • In infants 0-4 months taking baby formula mixed with nitrate-contaminated water, the exposure reacts with red blood cells, depleting oxygen and potentially suffocating the baby
    • An obvious symptom is bluish skin color, especially around the eyes and mouth
  • If detected at this early stage, methemoglobinemia is rarely fatal, readily diagnosed, and rapidly reversed with clinical treatment. 
    • If your baby has a brownish-blue skin tone, take him/her to a hospital immediately
    • A medication called "methylene blue" will quickly return the baby's blood to normal
  • After the age of six months, methemoglobinemia is not a threat since the nitrate converting bacteria are no longer present in the baby’s stomach
  • Pregnant women can pass methemoglobin on to developing fetuses, and low birth weights have been attributed to high nitrates in water.   However, nursing mothers do not pass nitrites to infants via their milk
How Did It Get There?
  • Naturally occurring and found in many rainfall or groundwater aquifers
  • Inorganic fertilizers and animal manures
  • Use of on-site septic systems and lawn fertilizer

Private Well Owner's To-Do List

Annual Well Maintenance Program

  • Annual testing is a key part of maintaining the health and safety of your drinking water
  • Frequently homeowners do not do regular testing, yet multiple research studies have shown bacterial contamination in 30-50% of private wells
  • The EPA recommends the following tests every year and additional tests every 3 years

ContaminantTest Every YearTest Every 3 YearsCombined
Total Coliform Bacteria Princeton Analytical Logo   Princeton Analytical Logo
Lead Princeton Analytical Logo   Princeton Analytical Logo
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Princeton Analytical Logo   Princeton Analytical Logo
Nitrate/Nitrite Princeton Analytical Logo   Princeton Analytical Logo
pH Princeton Analytical Logo   Princeton Analytical Logo
Chloride   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Sulfate   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Iron   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Manganese   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Hardness (calcium & magnesium)   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Alkalinity   Princeton Analytical Logo Princeton Analytical Logo
Your Cost $100 $100 $175


How it works
  • Princeton will send you sampling containers, simple directions and a chain of custody
  • Follow the directions, take the sample yourself, prepare the chain of custody, pack it in plenty of ice and send it all back to us
  • We'll send you the certified results with an easy to understand summary

Test for Additional Contaminants if...

Conditions or Nearby Activities Recommended Tests
Recurrent gastro-intestinal illness Coliform Bacteria
Household Plumbing Contains Lead
pH, Lead, Copper
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon
Scaly residues, soaps don't lather
Water softener needed to treat hardness
Iron, Manganese
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry
Iron, Manganese, Copper
Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen Sulfide, Corrosion, Metals
Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored Color, Detergents
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, Lead
Rapid wear of water treatment equipment Corrosion, pH
Nearby areas of intensive agriculture Nitrate, Pesticides, Coliform Bacteria
Coal or other mining operation nearby Metals, Corrosion, pH
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory or dry-cleaning operation nearby VOCs, Total Disolved Solids (TDS), pH, Sulfate, Chloride, Metals
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, TDS, Sodium

Shock Chlorination

  • Bacterial contamination of drinking water supplies is a real concern
  • If bacteria is found, shock chlorination is the best, first line of treatment
  • Remember that you may be treating just the sympton and not the cause, such as a faulty septic system

Gas Drilling Baseline

Princeton Analytical is a certified, experienced and trusted provider of baseline water testing services.

Please see our dedicated Baseline Water Testing

What Else Can You Do to Protect Your Well?

  • Keep the area around your well clean and make sure it is always accessible
  • Limit activities such as use of fertilizers or pesticides near the well
  • Be aware of local activities that may impact your well water such as landfills, farms or construction
  • Complete a visual inspection of your well casing to detect any cracks, holes or corrosion
  • Replace a standard well cap with a sanitary well cap to keep out insects, small mammals, and other surface contamination
  • Check the wiring for the pump to make sure that it is secured in an electric conduit pipe
  • If you have not taken measures to prevent backflow, contact a plumbing supplier and get an inexpensive backflow prevention device
  • Even with proper annual maintenance, well materials and equipment will eventually need replacement. For preventative maintenance, get your well inspected at least every ten years by a qualified professional
    • Find Pennsylvania Licensed Well Drillers here
  • For added information: A Guide to Private Water Systems in Pennsylvania

Find Details About Your Well's Construction