Your septic system may be the cause of nitrates in your well water

Your septic system may be the cause of nitrates in your well water.  Nitrates are one of the most dangerous carcinogens in drinking water, but not as dangerous as lead or arsenic. EPA allows up to 10 parts per million (ppm or mg/l) of nitrates in water. I won’t drink water with nitrates of 3 ppm. Natural levels in an unpollutated river are about .01 ppm

If you have nitrates in your water they’re coming from one of three sources: animal waste, fertilizer, or your septic leach field. If you have both nitrates and coliform bacteria in your well then you can pretty much assume that what’s taking place on the surface of your land is making its way quickly into the well below.

People tell me all the time that their septic field can’t be leaking into the well because it’s on the other side of the house.  I hope this illustration eliminates that false sense of security from your mind:

Septic leach field contaminating well water

If the waste in your septic leach field is not fully digested it will contribute nitrates to your well water

I sell whole house water filters that can remove nitrates from the entire home. That’s certainly what I would use if I were to use a filter. But they’re expensive. So I generally recommend that you attempt to manage your land and your septic instead. There are relatively inexpensive products you can add to your septic tank to aid in the digestion of fecal material. These include enzymes and live bacteria that break down the material.

You can reduce nitrates in your well water by managing your septic tank. This is the less expensive alternative and its better not to have the nitrates in your well in the first place.

I had a customer tell me the other day that he read online from some government site that he didn’t have to add anything to his septic tank so he wasn’t planning to take my advice. That’s fine. People do as they wish. But in that case you’re drinking nitrates in your water and that’s dangerous.

Nitrates can also be in city water. In California’s central valley the level of nitrates is ludicrous. I wouldn’t drink or bathe in that water for all the tea in China. In that case your only choice is to filter out. I’d use whole house and a drinking water filter to remove all of it.

You can email me for my specific septic treatment suggestions or nitrate removal systems:


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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Exposure to Toxins, Reverse Osmosis, Water Purification, Well Water Purification and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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