SHOSHONE, Idaho (KLIX) — Is your well water safe to drink? You can find out at a free testing clinic this Thursday and Friday in Lincoln County.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in partnership with Idaho Rural Water Association, will offer a free nitrate screening for private well owners from 3 to 8 p.m. this Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

“Nitrate is the most widespread contaminant in Idaho ground water,” according to information from DEQ. “It is a chemical form of nitrogen found naturally in small amounts in soil and ground water. However, some land use practices and human activities may increase nitrate in ground water to dangerous levels. In areas with shallow depths to ground water, sandy soils, fractured bedrock, or shallow wells, nitrate contamination can easily occur."

The department said drinking water that contains high levels of nitrate is especially dangerous for infants under the age of 6 months, unborn children, and adults with low stomach acidity.

To participate in the nitrate screening, DEQ said well owners should do the following on the morning they plan to bring their water samples:

  • Identify a source that is not connected to a treatment device (water softener, carbon filter, or other filtration system). An outside faucet or hydrant works best.
  • Locate a clean glass jar and lid or Ziploc bag to collect the water sample. Label the outside with your name or address, date, and well name (garden well, house well, etc.).
  • Allow the water to run 5 to 10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer. Doing so will lead to more accurate results.
  • Fill the container with approximately one cup of water.
  • Keep the sample cool. DEQ will dip a test strip into the water, which will indicate if nitrate is present.