Alternative Nitrate Drinking Water Program

The Benton-Franklin Health District received funding from the WA DOH Office of Drinking Water (ODW) Alternative Water Fund to address a critical health issue by offering free nitrate drinking water tests and water treatment devices to clients enrolled in BFHD’s  WIC (Women, Infants and Children) OR NFP (Nurse-Family Partnership) programs. This project's objective is to assure those most susceptible to the health effects of nitrates, primarily infants and pregnant mothers, have access to safe drinking water.

  1. When will this program be available:

    Funding is available after February 1, 2024, for BFHD clients who are enrolled  in eligible programs. Please contact  WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) OR NFP (Nurse-Family Partnership) programs to check your eligibility.

  2. Who this program reaches:

    Clients who are residents of Benton and Franklin counties AND are enrolled in Health District WIC OR NFP programs. Click Here To Learn More About Qualified Households

  3. Why we are offering this program:

    We requested funds for this new program because here in the Columbia Basin, high nitrates are the most common contaminant of our groundwater. Consuming too much nitrate can affect how blood carries oxygen and can cause methemoglobinemia (also known as blue baby syndrome). Bottle-fed babies under six months old are at the highest risk of getting methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia can cause the skin to turn a bluish color and, if left untreated, can result in serious illness or death. While methemoglobinemia in infants may be less common today, it has not disappeared and remains an important public health concern. Pregnant individuals are at an increased risk for methemoglobinemia because pregnancy increases the oxygen demand of the body. Some studies have found an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects from drinking water contaminated with nitrates. Do not drink water with nitrate levels above 10 mg/L if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

    The objective of this project is to ensure that those most susceptible to the health effects of nitrates, primarily infants and pregnant mothers, have access to safe drinking water. Visit Nitrate in drinking water for more information. (insert link to nitrate water page) 

  4. How?
  1. Check your eligibility.


  2. Learn about Nitrate in Drinking Water:

    (insert link for video)

  3. Have your water tested for nitrate.
  1. How to sample drinking water for nitrate test?

    Learn more about How to sample drinking water for the test (insert link for video)

  2. How to submit the sample?

    (insert link for video)

  3. How to interpret the test result?

The drinking water quality standard for nitrate (measured as nitrogen) is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Water with more than 10 mg/L of nitrate is considered a hazard for drinking, especially for infants and pregnant women. For safety, our program chooses a cutoff nitrate level of 8.0 mg/L to be considered for alternative water assistance.

If your water has a nitrate level at or exceeding 8.0 mg/L, you are eligible for alternative water assistance from our program. You will be offered a free countertop reverse osmosis unit (or bottled water supply) for your home. This will help you access water with a safe nitrate level for drinking.

If your water has a nitrate level between 5.0-7.99 mg/L, your water is safe for drinking. However, we will offer a follow-up free test every 3-6 months to help you monitor nitrate levels in your water and ensure it remains at a safe level for drinking.

If your water has a nitrate level lower than 5.0 mg/L, congratulations! Your water has a safe nitrate level for drinking.

D. Obtain alternative water.

1. Countertop RO filter

2. Bottled water.

E. Follow-up

Nitrate, Drinking Water Wells, Septic Systems Brochures
 Washington State Department of Health - Private Wells - Information for Owners
Washington State Department of Health - Nitrate in Drinking Water