WATER WORRIES: Farmers, regulators struggle to address nitrate contamination
September 22, 2022 | Capital Press
Overloading groundwater with nitrates brings to light a health issue that is neither new to agriculture nor unique to any one part of the West. Nitrogen from fertilizer, compost or manure is critical for farmers, who apply it to their fields, but too much can have unintended consequences.
Chrissy Lucas-Woodruff, outreach program coordinator for OSU Extension in the Willamette Valley, has spent the last 15 years working with small-scale farmers, landowners and new residents to educate them about nitrates, and to test their wells.
She said the biggest contributors to nitrates in the area are agriculture, failing septic systems and manure piles. Her hope is that more positions like hers can be filled statewide, allowing for greater awareness of the problem.
“As a domestic well owner and landowner or renter, you have to be proactive in this,” Lucas-Woodruff said. “You should be paying attention to what’s going on with your own water quality. It’s nothing you can see, smell or taste.”
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