BACKUS -- Cass County Environmental Services Department started a program to test private wells where people have expressed concern about potential groundwater contamination from agricultural activity.

Environmental Services Department Director John Ringle informed the county board Tuesday, Nov. 19, that his office began testing wells in Deerfield Township In June this year to get a baseline for possible nitrate contamination.

The area is where residents have recently expressed concern about large commercial farming in the Pineland Sands and adjacent to Hubbard County.

Ringle said 3 parts per million is a level higher than a background level, and 10 parts per million is a level being of concern.

Of the 23 wells tested in Deerfield Township, four were above 3 parts per million and none were above 10 parts per million. The four were scattered, so did not indicate a common source, Ringle said.

The environmental services department plans to also offer voluntary testing of existing private wells in McKinley, Byron and May townships to obtain baseline samplings there, he said.

In addition to water testing, the department plans to emphasize best management practices for producers to more efficiently irrigate and reduce the use of agricultural chemicals,, plus use more winter cover crops, Ringle said.