Free nitrate-nitrogen screening scheduled for February 26

Portage County staff will offer a free nitrate-nitrogen screening event Saturday, February 26, at the Town of Amherst Town Hall for those residents with private wells in and around the Town of Amherst.

Most residents living in rural areas rely on private wells to supply their drinking water needs. While public and municipal wells are regulated to ensure that water quality meets current drinking water standards, private well owners must assume the responsibility of testing and treating water to ensure that it is safe to drink.

While most of the wells in Wisconsin produce safe drinking water, about 24% of wells in Portage County exceed the safe drinking water standard for nitrate-nitrogen. Nitrate-nitrogen is one of the most common groundwater pollutants in Portage County. There are a number of potential health risks associated with elevated nitrate-nitrogen levels in drinking water for anyone, but it can be especially dangerous for unborn children and infants younger than six months. While water may look clean and taste good, the only way to know that it is safe to drink is to have it tested.

This screening is an opportunity for area residents, particularly those who may never have had their water tested, to learn more about nitrate-nitrogen levels in their drinking water through a screening. The screening is a preliminary test that provides an estimate of the nitrate-nitrogen present in the water sample. Staff will be on hand to provide further guidance about the test results and possible next steps.

To participate in this free screening opportunity, all private well owners need to do is to follow the steps below to collect a sample of water from their well and bring it to the Amherst Town Hall, 4023 Cty. Rd. Q, Amherst Junction on February 26 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Samples can be analyzed on the spot and results will be given directly to the private well owner, or private well owners can leave their samples in a disposable container labeled with their name and address and results will be mailed to them after the event.

How to collect your sample:

  1. Identify a source of water that is not connected to a treatment device. An outside faucet works best.
  2. Locate a clean container with a lid to collect the water sample. Label the outside with your name and address.
  3. Allow the water to run five to 10 minutes before collecting your sample.
  4. Fill the container with about a half cup of water.

For more information about this free nitrate-nitrogen screening, contact Jen McNelly, Portage County Water Resources Specialist, at (715) 346-1334 or by email at

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