Contamination of wells and springs by fecal bacteria or other waste-related micro-organisms is a possible problem if wastes are spread on sandy soils. Studies in poultry growing areas of the Northeast and South indicate elevated fecal coliform and fecal streptococcus concentrations are possible where poultry litter has been applied at high rates.
A number of diseases can be transported between animals and man as noted in section 651.0302(a)(3); however, the potential for contamination of ground water by fecal organisms is reduced considerably by the filtering action of the soil. The importance of soil filtering is discussed in the following section.
Well water should be tested regularly for contamination by fecal bacteria. The acceptable limit is zero for potable water (table 1-4).
EPA established a criterion of 10 mg/L of NO3 -N for drinking water because of the health hazard that nitrates present for pregnant women and infants. Unborn babies and infants can contract methemo-globinemia, or blue baby syndrome, from ingesting water contaminated with nitrates. In extreme cases, this can be fatal. Blue baby syndrome generally effects only infants that are less than 6 months old. The disease develops when nitrate is converted to nitrite in the alkaline environment of the baby's stomach. The nitrite then enters the bloodstream and interacts with the hemoglobin, converting it to methemoglobin.
Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the bloodstream, but methemoglobin does not. Therefore, as the amount of vitally needed hemoglobin is reduced in the bloodstream, less oxygen is carried to the body's organs, and symptoms of oxygen starvation begin to occur. The baby's skin takes on a bluish tint. If the situation is not reversed, the baby could die of oxygen starvation.
Even after the baby discontinues consumption of the contaminated water, the buildup of normal hemoglobin can be slow. After the age of 6 months, the baby's stomach pH reaches adult levels, and the disease is rarely a problem.
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