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“I never knew what it was.” The building is Cedar Falls Utilities’ Pump Station 3, one of eight water wells that supply the city’s water system. O’Neal and her husband are new to the neighborhood, but longtime Neola Street resident Rosann Good wasn’t aware of its purpose, either, nor was Chuck Parsons, who has lived directly across the street from the pump station for two decades.

Knowing where your drinking water comes from is one thing. Three of Cedar Falls’ wells — 3, 9 and 10 — consistently have recorded high nitrate levels.

“As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and groundwaters,” the study explained.

Nitrates can appear naturally in drinking water at low levels.

The body in instances like that converts the nitrates into nitrites.

The nitrites then react with the oxyhemoglobin, or oxygen carrying proteins in the blood, to form methemoglobin, a protein that cannot carry oxygen.

Despite the effects of high nitrate intake, many argue the acceptable EPA standard of 10 ppm should be raised, Weyer said.

Because blue baby syndrome seldom is diagnosed, the argument could be that perhaps a 15 ppm or 20 ppm standard would be acceptable, he said.

“However, the cancer studies we have conducted show that the risk increases for long term consumption of drinking water that has nitrate concentrations at or above 5 ppm, or half the drinking water standard,” Weyer said.

All three are in the northern part of Cedar Falls and covered by a shallow layer of bedrock, which allows more nitrates to infiltrate.

They stand in contrast to Cedar Falls’ southern water wells, where thicker bedrock layers better confine and protect the groundwater, found a journalism collaboration between the University of Northern Iowa Science in the Media, the Cedar Falls High School Tiger Hi-Line and Iowa Watch.

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