High nitrate levels may be risky for locals

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MACON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - Prairie Rivers Network reports the water supply in Macon County is seeing high levels of nitrate.

The federal standard is 10 mg/L nitrate, and Macon County is seeing levels around 8 mg/L.

The company reports Macon County is the most affected area in the state, claiming over 300,000 people in Illinois have been exposed to nitrate levels that exceed the federal drinking water standard. 

Prairie Rivers Network Agricultural Program Specialist Catie Gregg says she would not drink tap water that contains levels of nitrate of 5mg/L.

"Decatur has known for a long time," Gregg says. "In 2002, they had to get a nitrate treatment facility because their tests were coming back near or above the safe standard."

Gregg says 80 percent of nitrates come from agriculture. The nitrate moves with water in fields and gets washed down into the streams.

According to Prairie Rivers Network, farmers can cover crops, meaning planting something in place of corn or beans. They can also use grass buffers along streams and bio-reactors, which are pits of wood chips that  promote bacteria that eat up the nitrate.

Gregg says there are solutions that can be implemented.

"I would recommend filtering your water if it's above 5 mg/L," Gregg says. "Something like a Brita filter will not address it."

WAND reached out to Keith Alexander, Water Production Manager for the City of Decatur. Alexander says Decatur has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to reduce the amount of nitrate that enters the lake. He also says the town's water is safe and complies with the federal standard.

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