Health Risk Limits Rules for Groundwater
2014/2015 Amendments -
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Health-Based guidance?

Health-based guidance for water is a concentration of a chemical (or a mixture of chemicals) in drinking water that is likely to pose little or no health risk to humans. The guidance values are calculated by MDH using methods published in the 2008/2009 Statement of Need and Reasonableness and within the current Health Risk Limit Rule. The values are expressed as micrograms of chemical per liter of water (μg/L), which is the same as parts per billion (ppb).

What is rulemaking?

Rulemaking is a process that allows agencies to set policies into law. Rulemaking is governed by Minnesota Statutes, chapter 14, and Minnesota Rules, chapter 1400. These laws, called the Administrative Procedures Act, require agencies to be authorized through statute to complete rulemaking. The Groundwater Protection Act of 1989 provides MDH with authorization to add or “adopt” guidance values into rule for chemicals that have been detected in groundwater in the state. These values appear in the Health Risk Limit Rules for Groundwater in Minnesota Rules Chapter 4717.7500 to 4717.7900. MDH may remove or update old guidance values in this rule, as well as adopt a set of procedures or methodology that will be used to develop health-based guidance values.

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What do HRL, HBV and RAA mean?

MDH currently develops three types of water guidance values: Health Risk Limits (HRL), Health-Based Values (HBV), and Risk Assessment Advice (RAA).

HRLs are guidance values adopted into rule through a formal rulemaking process authorized in the 1989 Groundwater Protection Act.

HBVs are developed as interim guidance until MDH can adopt an HRL through rulemaking. HBVs meet the same data requirements as HRLs. If a contaminant has been detected in groundwater, then an HBV may become a HRL at the time that MDH next amends the Health Risk Limits rule.

RAAs may be based on more limited data than HRLs, or may use new methodology. RAA may include a numerical value or may be qualitative in nature. These values are not eligible to be adopted into rule.

Why are health-based guidance values adopted through rulemaking?

In most cases, program risk managers are able to use guidance values, such as HBVs, without adoption into rule. However, some risk managers rely on guidance values that have been adopted through rulemaking. Adopting values into rule provides predictability for long-term planning. It also allows stakeholders and the public the opportunity to comment on values. Therefore, adopting guidance values into rule is completed when possible.

How does MDH decide which chemical guidance values will be adopted through rulemaking?

Under MDH’s current rulemaking authority, guidance values must have been derived using methodology that has been adopted into rule and the chemical must have been detected in groundwater in Minnesota. While guidance values for chemicals detected only in surface water (e.g., a river) might be developed, MDH cannot adopt them into rule.

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How often are new chemicals added to the Health Risk Limit Rules and how often are previously released guidance numbers updated?

MDH plans to complete a rulemaking cycle about every two years. This plan is based on the number of new or updated guidance values developed in a year and the amount of resources needed to complete rulemaking. MDH intends to follow this schedule into the future, as feasible.

How many steps are there to rulemaking and what are they?

Rulemaking involves several steps that are outlined in the Administrative Procedures Act in Chapter 14 of the Minnesota Statutes. These steps exist to provide the public and stakeholders several opportunities to provide input during the rulemaking process. A summary of rulemaking steps can be viewed on the Rulemaking Process page. More details can be found in the Minnesota Administrative Procedures Act

How much time does it take to complete rulemaking and what causes delays?

The length of time from the start of rulemaking to completion depends on several factors. Some of these include the complexity of the rule, the type of chemicals involved, the comments the agency receives, and time for discussions with stakeholders. In addition, most documents created during the rulemaking process require review and approval by several agencies or individuals before the next step can occur. At times, issues arise that delay these approvals. Typically, MDH expects rulemaking for Health Risk Limits Amendments to take about nine months to one year. However, it is not unusual for the process to be delayed to 18 months or longer.

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How can I comment on the proposed rules?

During the rulemaking process, there are at least two time periods during which anyone may comment on the proposed rules.

The first comment period occurs during the beginning of the process when a Request for Comments is announced in the Minnesota State Register. This comment period is required to be at least 60 days. During this time, the agency announces its intentions and asks for comment on the plans. Comments are usually accepted by mail, email, phone or in person.

The second comment period occurs after the agency announces the Notice of Intent to Adopt Rules in the Minnesota State Register and makes an official copy of the proposed rules available. During this comment period, usually 30 days in length, all comments received are entered into the official rulemaking record. These comments are reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) when he or she determines if the agency will be allowed to adopt the proposed rules.

Please note: Comments accepted during the 30-day comment period after the Notice of Intent to Adopt Rules has been published are part of the public record. MDH will add these comments to its website, except in some circumstances in accordance with Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

How can I contact MDH for more information about rulemaking?

The Health Risk Assessment Unit is available to hear concerns or questions about adopting guidance values into the Health Risk Limit Rules for Groundwater. Please contact us.

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Updated Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:22AM