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Nitrate contamination in groundwater sources is becoming an increasing concern everywhere, but especially in areas affected by drought. In many of these areas, municipalities with water shortages have been forced to consider reopening wells that had been closed due to high concentrations of nitrates. As these conditions persist, many municipalities are turning to Evoqua for nitrate removal solutions.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates (NO3-) is a naturally occurring compounds of nitrogen and oxygen found in air, soil, and water. Much of the nitrate in our environment comes from decomposition of plants and animal wastes. Nitrates have no detectable color, taste or smell at the concentrations involved in drinking water supplies, and can occur both naturally and from man-made sources. Because they do not evaporate, nitrates are likely to remain in water until consumed by plants or other organisms. Manmade nitrate contamination originates mainly from agricultural operations including farm runoff and fertilizer usage, septic system failure and improper discharge of industrial and food processing waste and wastewater, but can also come from munitions and fireworks operations. Since they are very soluble and do not bind to soils, nitrates have a high potential to migrate to ground water.
Why is nitrate contamination a public health concern?
Long exposure to high levels of nitrates in drinking water has been shown to cause serious health problems in infants and the older population, especially those who drink formula made with well water or untreated municipal water. In a child's body, nitrates can be converted into toxic nitrites that interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of a child's blood. This condition can cause serious illness and death from a condition called Methemoglobinemia (“blue baby syndrome”).
What are the safe maximum contaminant level goals of nitrates and nitrites?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for nitrates of 10 parts per million (ppm) as nitrogen.
What methods are typically used to remove nitrates and nitrites from groundwater?
The best available technologies as determined by the EPA for removing nitrates and nitrites from potable water are ion exchange and reverse osmosis (RO).
Another growing trend for removing nitrates from both potable and non-potable applications is biological remediation. California has granted several systems with conditional use permits for biological treatment of nitrate for drinking water.
Evoqua is a leader in all of these technologies - with more than 100 years of experience in meeting the clean water needs of municipalities and water users throughout the United States. We can provide solutions in forms that meet the chemistry, process and budget needs of your nitrate removal application.