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Nitrate Level At All-Time High In Cedar River

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The city of Cedar Rapids said its drinking water is safe, for now. The nitrate levels in the Cedar River are at an all-time high, and that could affect the drinking water if the levels don't go down.

There are always nitrates in your drinking water, but if it exceeds the EPA limit, the city will have to take action to let you know.

The biggest concern would be for infants, who could get sick and die, but the city said we're not to that stage yet.

When Misty Newlon sets her fishing line, she never knows what she's going to get.

"I've caught like three so far," Misty said.

That same lesson goes for the river. Spring rain causes runoff, including soil and chemicals.

This spring in particular, nitrate levels are at an all-time high in the Cedar River.

"We always see nitrate levels rise in the spring. That's normal. It's not normal to see it this high," said Megan Murphy, Cedar Rapids utilities communications coordinator.

That can happen when farmers put fertilizer down. Especially with last year's drought, it could mean some chemicals from then will run off too.

The big concern would be the impact on the city's drinking water.

"We want people to be aware of it, but there's really no cause for alarm at this point," Murphy said.

That's because, by the time the water reaches the city's plant, it already has filtered out enough of those nitrates.

They're also monitoring their 47 standing wells and making adjustments.

"We kind of look at each well and say, 'Alright, this one has a low nitrate level. We're going to pull more water from that one'," Murphy said.

"That's good. Hopefully, it stays down low," Misty said.

If you're concerned about the nitrate levels, bottled water is an alternative.
As for the river, the DNR said the chemical won't affect the fish. The DNR expects the levels to go down eventually, like they do each spring.
 
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