By Keli James, PR communications communicator

Cindy Hairston, of Zainesville, pours a glass of water from the faucet in the kitchen of her parents' home in Zanesville, Ohio, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.  Hairston has lived in the Coal Run neighborhood for most of her life and was credited with being one of the main plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit which brought city water to her and her neighbors. (Columbus Dispatch/Sam Greene)

Nitrate can cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Nitrates are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units that combine with various organic and inorganic compounds. Nitrates are most commonly used as fertilizer and if ingested, nitrates are converted to nitrites.

According to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ article, infants below six months for whom formula is prepared with contaminated well water are most vulnerable to effects of nitrate poising if consumed in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL), recommended by the EPA. They could become seriously ill and experience shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome, also called methemoglobinemia.

Nitrates primarily enter drinking water via runoff from fertilizer use, septic tank leaks, sewage and erosion of natural deposits.

The EPA.gov website informs the public that a federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.
EPA strongly encourages people to stay informed and support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water. Full article -> http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/nitrate.cfm

RCAC provides assistance to small municipal and nonprofit water systems, wastewater systems and solid waste management programs in 11 western states and other Pacific islands, learn more -> http://rcac.org/water-and-waste