Nitrate levels rising in Iowa rivers; could impact water - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Nitrate levels rising in Iowa rivers; could impact drinking water

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Last summer's drought could be negatively impacting your drinking water now. Nitrate levels in the Cedar River, and other rivers in the state, are spiking. Last summer's drought could be negatively impacting your drinking water now. Nitrate levels in the Cedar River, and other rivers in the state, are spiking.
CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Last summer's drought could be negatively impacting your drinking water now. Nitrate levels in the Cedar River, and other rivers in the state, are spiking.

"We've seen nitrate levels in the Cedar River and rivers across Iowa have an increased nitrate level over the last few weeks," said Megan Murphy, Utilities Communication Coordinator for the City of Cedar Rapids.

The nitrates come from soil. There's typically an increase in nitrate levels this time of year because they're commonly found in fertilizers. When rain falls, nitrates are washed from soil into rivers.

Since there was a drought last summer, nitrate levels now are hitting all-time highs.

"Since there wasn't much rain over the last year all of that nitrate, nitrogen and nitrate has really built up in the soil, so we're seeing higher levels now," said Murphy.

Currently, nitrate levels in drinking water are still under the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If they continue to rise, it could be a big problem for babies younger than 4 months of age. High nitrate levels cause "blue baby syndrome."

"They process nitrates in their bodies such that it can affect their blood's ability to carry oxygen," said Jim Hodina, Environmental Manager for the Linn County Public Health Department.

The same soil can get into wells.

"If you have your own personal well that is influenced by the river, you'll definitely want to make sure you keep a close eye on that," said Murphy. "Nitrate levels can spike and fall very quickly."

As cities continue to monitor their nitrate levels, officials recommend residents do the same. Experts say if you have a private well, you should have the water tested at least once or year. To do that, contact your county's public health department or the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

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