Article courtesy of Mazhar Ali | December 9, 2012 | Times of India
“Natural content of nitrates in groundwater should be 10 – 20mg per litre. America and Europe have standards of 10 mg/lit for nitrate content in water, while India holds safety standards of 45 mg/ lit for nitrates. However, the latest GSDA report states that majority of tested water sample have nitrate content between 200 mg and 300 mg per litre,” said president of NGO Green Planet Society, Suresh Chopne.
He claimed that at places like Yerkheda in Warora tehsil, nitrate content is as high as 1,218 mg/lit, while at Khadsangi, nitrate content in groundwater is at alarming level of 1,092 and 1,008 mg/ lit. As many as 660 samples from Chandrapur tehsil have been tested positive for high contamination of nitrates in the report. Other tehsils with high nitrate contamination are Nagbhid, Rajura, Korpana, Warora, Bhadrawati, Bramhapuri and Gondpipri, he said.
“High industrialization in Chandrapur has led to higher emission of nitrogen in the air from coal burned in furnaces. Atmospheric nitrogen reacts with water vapour and falls in the form of acid rains on the ground adding nitrates to the underground water,” Chopne said. Other major source of nitrate contamination is high use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides rich with nitrates.
Human and animal feces flushed into rivers and nullahs without processing also adds nitrates in the groundwater, he claimed.
“Intake of nitrate contaminated water leads to ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’ in infants aged less than six months. This ailment decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of blood vessels leading to infant death. High nitrate contents in drinking water could also lead to deformities in unborn babies and diseases like dermatitis, gastric and intestine cancer, kidney ailment and other skin diseases,” Chopne warned.
Chopne has filed a complaint in this regard with the Central Pollution Control Board, chief minister, health minister, environment minister, local MLAs, collector, ZP CEO, district health officer and regional office of MPCB. He has urged the government and administration to take immediate steps to curb the nitrate pollution in groundwater and ensure supply of clean drinking water free of pollutants to the citizens.
What is it?
Nitrate compounds are found naturally on earth as large deposits, particularly of Chile saltpeter a major source of sodium nitrate. Nitrites are produced by a number of species of nitrifying bacteria, and the nitrate compounds for gunpowder were historically produced, in the absence of mineral nitrate sources, by means of various fermentation processes using urine and dung.
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Why does it matter?
In freshwater or estuarine systems close to land, nitrate can reach high levels that can potentially cause the death of fish. While nitrate is much less toxic than ammonia, levels over 30 ppm of nitrate can inhibit growth, impair the immune system and cause stress in some aquatic species. However, in light of inherent problems with past protocols on acute nitrate toxicity experiments, the extent of nitrate toxicity has been the subject of recent debate.
In most cases of excess nitrate concentrations in aquatic systems, the primary source is surface runoff from agricultural or landscaped areas that have received excess nitrate fertilizer. This is called eutrophication and can lead to algae blooms. As well as leading to water anoxia and dead zones, these blooms may cause other changes to ecosystem function, favouring some groups of organisms over others. As a consequence, as nitrate forms a component of total dissolved solids, they are widely used as an indicator of water quality.
Nitrate also is a by-product of septic systems. To be specific, it is a naturally occurring chemical that is left after the breakdown or decomposition of animal or human waste. Water quality may also be affected through ground water resources that have a high number of septic systems in a watershed. Septics leach down into ground water resources or aquifers and supply nearby bodies of water. Lakes that rely on ground water are often affected by nitrification through this process.
Nitrate in drinking water at levels above the national standard poses an immediate threat to young children. Excessive levels can result in a condition known as “blue baby syndrome”. If untreated, the condition can be fatal. Boiling water contaminated with nitrate increases the nitrate concentration and the potential risk.
Nitrate toxicosis can occur through enterohepatic metabolism of nitrate to nitrite being an intermediate. Nitrites oxidize the iron atoms in hemoglobin from ferrous iron (2+) to ferric iron (3+), rendering it unable to carry oxygen. This process can lead to generalized lack of oxygen in organ tissue and a dangerous condition called methemoglobinemia. Although nitrite converts to ammonia, if there is more nitrite than can be converted, the animal slowly suffers from a lack of oxygen.
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