Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas. It is regulated in drinking water primarily because excess levels can cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby" syndrome, which refers to the bluish color that appears around the mouth, hands, and feet of victims. The disease occurs when hemoglobin in the blood absorbs a nitrate molecule in place of oxygen. The body becomes oxygen deprived leading, if untreated, to a form a chemical asphyxiation. Infants are vulnerable because their stomachs lack sufficient quantities of an enzyme that normally neutralizes nitrates.
Although nitrate levels that affect infants do not pose a direct threat to older children and adults, they do indicate the possible presence of other more serious residential or agricultural contaminants, such as bacteria or pesticides.
Nitrate in groundwater originates primarily from fertilizers, septic systems, and manure storage or spreading operations. Fertilizer nitrogen that is not taken up by plants, volatilized, or carried away by surface runoff leaches to the groundwater in the form of nitrate. Nitrogen from manure similarly can be lost from fields, barnyards, or storage locations. Septic systems can also elevate groundwater nitrate concentrations because they only typically remove about half of the nitrogen in wastewater, leaving the remaining half to percolate into the groundwater.
We recommend reverse osmosis technologies for the removal of nitrate: