Fillmore residents encouraged to get their water tested

Those who have had floodwaters need to be alert for mold in their homes. If you have it, wash the area with soap and water and apply a mist of one part bleach, 10 parts water and let it dry, she said.

By John Weiss

PRESTON — Larry Mikkelson wasn’t worried about nitrates or bacteria in his water, though his basement did get a few feet of water in it in last week’s floods.

Still, the Henrytown man came into the Fillmore County Health Department Tuesday morning "just to be safe" and carried with him a sample from his drinking water and that of his father, Mel Mikkelson, who lives about six miles away. The county is offering free screening for nitrates to any county resident this week. Those who had water covering their well, or within 50 feet of their well, will get free kits that they can use to test for bacteria.


It’s a simple precaution that can ward off some nasty illnesses, said Brenda Leigh Pohlman, the county health educator who tested Mikkelson’s samples.

Flood water covering wells can seep into the well, contaminating it, she said. Or the water table can rise and floodwaters can get into the ground water and then into wells, she said.

If water is stained or tastes bad, you can be pretty sure it’s contaminated, she said. If it’s clear, it could still be polluted because nitrates or bacteria don’t have a smell or taste.

Fillmore has about 4,000 private wells that provide water for more than half the residents. When Mikkelson came in, he was only about the 20th person for the week. But Pohlman would like to see everyone get their water screened. If the results for nitrates are high, they get a more complete test.

Anything below 5 parts per million is acceptable for everyday use, but the well should be tested for bacteria annually. If the level is 5 to 9.9, the water is still safe but needs to be tested for both nitrates and bacteria annually.

Water above 10 ppm is unsafe for infants because it can lead to the dangerous Blue Baby Syndrome. It can also be harmful for anyone with an impaired immune system, she said.

Mel Mikkelson water tested at 13 ppm. Pohlman suggested he drink bottled water.

Larry Mikkelson’s was at 1.7 ppm. "It’s very good," she said. Maybe he could bring water to his father, she suggested.


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