Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Fall 2012 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Duluth Water Survives the Water


Lyle Stai of Minnesota American Water Works Association during calmer times in Duluth.

Heavy rains on June 20 caused havoc in Duluth, killing animals in the zoo, washing out roads, and creating extensive damage around the city. However, Howard Jacobson, the operations manager for Duluth’s gas and water supply, said they were fortunate in being able to keep a safe supply of drinking water flowing to their residents. A main break in the Piedmont Hills neighborhood was quickly isolated, affecting only a few homes and bringing no loss of pressure. The Fond du Lac neighborhood was underwater from the St. Louis River, but samples taken after the water receded showed no bacteriological contamination. Jacobson said the turbidity of water from Lake Superior was “way up” and that they noted large temperature swings in their surface water, causing them to use more chemicals. “All in all, knock on wood, we did pretty darn good considering how much the storm impacted the city,” said Jacobson.

Meanwhile, Karla Peterson, supervisor of the Community Water Supply Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), says this and other events caused by heavy rains this spring and summer is a reminder that any water system experiencing problems with a natural disaster or other situation (low pressure, chemical overfeed, upstream spills, etc.) should call MDH (651-201-5386) and the state duty officer (800-422-0798) and report the incident.

For more information on responses to the floods in northeastern Minnesota, see the story below.

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Jim Sadler Has a Cow

Miss Abby and Tessa
Maple Grove utility superintendent Jim Sadler has been raising South Devon beef cattle in St. Francis. At 5 a.m. on June 30, he oversaw the birth of Miss Abby to Tessa (above). Jim had been raising horses until four years ago, when he switched, along with Gail Johnson, to cattle. Last January, he took a heifer, Dynamite Kisser (below), to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, where she took first in her class. Jim and Gail are working with ranchers Dar and Lynn Giess on their cattle business.
Dynamite Kisser

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Public Water Supply Profile: Amy Lynch

Amy LynchAmy Lynch is the new Minnesota Department of Health engineer for the Metro-West district. She works out of the Mankato office and covers Wright, McLeod, Carver, Sibley, and Nicollet counties, where she will test the water, perform sanitary surveys, and work with operators and the regulated water systems. Amy graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering from South Dakota State. She has worked as an environmental engineer for Bolton & Menk, Inc. in Mankato and as a mechanical engineering intern for the Mankato water treatment plant.

Born in Bend, Oregon, Amy lived in Oregon until her family moved to South Dakota when she was 13.

She met her future husband, Mike, when she was at South Dakota State in Brookings and got married last summer. They live on a farm in St. Clair, where she spends most of her spare time. Amy and Mike raise corn and soybeans in addition to raising beef cattle and hogs and conducting feed research with dairy steers.

Amy enjoys traveling, especially trips to visit her family in Oregon, Idaho, California, and South Dakota. Other hobbies are fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, and skiing. She hasn’t been hunting but plans to try pheasant hunting this year.

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T. C. Bear Waters Up

T. C. Bear

T.C. Bear, mascot of the Minnesota Twins, stayed hydrated at an event at Bryant Square Park in Minneapolis for the dedication of a baseball diamond the Twins helped to refurbish this summer. Minneapolis Water Works brought its tap water station, where bears and other creatures, including people, found water from the tap to be just as convenient as bottled water.

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MDH Develops Health-Based Guidance for Manganese

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has developed health-based guidance for manganese, a naturally occurring contaminant that has been associated with aesthetic problems in water. Many utilities treat their water to reduce manganese levels to eliminate discolored water.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency secondary maximum contaminant level of 50 micrograms per liter (ug/L) is based on aesthetics, but levels around the state are often higher. Two levels of guidance, 100 and 300 ug/L, have historically been in use in Minnesota. MDH’s new guidance is to use the 100 ug/L level to protect infants (under one year of age who are formula-fed or given plain tap water) and 300 ug/L to protect children one year of age and older and all adults.

Manganese is an essential element in people and is needed in small amounts to maintain health. Most people get sufficient amounts from food, and infants younger than one year of age get adequate amounts from breast milk, food, or formula. Too much manganese, however, is a concern for infants, whose brains are still developing and who could consume more manganese-contaminated water based on body weight than older children or adults. Recent research shows that too much manganese from drinking water could affect learning and behavior in infants and young children.

Breast milk, which contains healthy amounts of manganese, is best for infants. Formula-fed babies may get too much manganese in their bodies if the formula they drink is mixed with water that contains high levels of manganese.

Customers who receive water from a public water system should check with their utility to learn whether the utility has tested for manganese and, if so, what the levels are in the treated water. People with private wells, especially with young infants, should test their water and use a proper filter to remove manganese from tap water given to infants if the levels exceed 100 ug/L.

Community public water systems are not required to provide manganese filtration.

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MnWARN Responds to Northeastern Minnesota Flooding

The Minnesota Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (MnWARN) was activated after heavy rains caused massive flooding in northeastern Minnesota in June.

A mutual-aid agreement, MnWARN was established in 2007 to provide prompt statewide response to utility emergencies and disasters in the state. It allowed for quick response to cities in southeast Minnesota during flooding in 2010, and the network was able to act quickly to similar problems to the north this summer.

Dave Isaacson, the MnWARN representative in northeast Minnesota and the water superintendent in Kettle River, which was affected by the rain, called Marty Glynn, the statewide vice chair and the regional representative in the Twin Cities area, with a call for help for his community and others.

MnWARN was able to provide pumps and personnel to Kettle River as well as Carlton, Thomson, Wrenshall, Barnum, Moose Lake, Willow River, and Sturgeon Lake.

The help came from utilities in Braham, Cohasset, St. Cloud, Remer, Zimmerman, Fridley, North St. Paul, Victoria, Monticello, Minneapolis, and St. Francis as well as from Minnesota Rural Water Association.

MnWARN now has approximately 270 member utilities in Minnesota. MnWARN membership is free. Wrenshall, Barnum, Moose Lake, and Thomson signed up at the time of the emergency in June, but communities can join anytime through the MnWARN website at http://mnwarn.org.

Glynn has seen how the organization quickly mobilizes resources for utilities in need. “It makes for easier emergency response,” he said. “Doing your planning before it happens.”

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Watching a Pro in Action

Taylor Daily and Bassam Banat

Taylor Daily, a graduate of Wayzata High School and currently a Brown University student with an interest in public health, had the chance to see MDH engineer Bassam Banat (right) at work and to help him take samples from a community water system in July.

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Keeping Kids Engaged

Eco Experience
The Minnesota Department of Health has been participating with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association in providing interactive displays for kids of all ages at the Eco Experience at the State Fair (above). Coming up with a display that engages people is a challenge, and a pair of Twin Cities companies have been specializing in this kind of work. One is KidZibits in Minneapolis, which develops dynamic displays using creative designs and an understanding of what attracts visitors to places such as the Eco Experience as well as museums to create memorable learning experiences. Blue Rhino Studio in Eagan also caters to everything from state fair exhibits to museums. Its office and warehouse (below) contain an interesting look at museum works in progress. The Minnesota Department of Health is working with these companies to develop a new display for the State Fair.
Blue Rhino

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MDH to Require Separate Storage Rooms for Incompatible Chemicals

Starting January 1, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Health will require that any plans and specifications submitted for new construction of water treatment plants and pump houses, etc., include separate storage rooms for all incompatible water treatment chemicals. The Great Lakes Upper Mississippi River Board Recommended Standards for Water Works (Ten States Standards), part 5.0.3(d), states that “chemicals that are incompatible are not stored or handled together.”

Separate storage will be defined as separate rooms. Incompatible chemicals will be defined by a U. S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance document. In essence, there are six different chemical groups that must be stored separately: acids, bases, salts and polymers, adsorption powders, oxidizing powders, and compressed gases. MDH is considering exempting polymers (cationic, anionic, and non-ionic) from this requirement.

Existing treatment plants and pump houses that are proposing rehabilitation work after January 1, 2013 will be strongly encouraged to provide separate storage for the different chemical classes but will be required to provide secondary containment for all water treatment chemicals in addition to providing adequate ventilation for all chemical storage areas. All future rehabilitation work should include provisions for separate chemical storage.

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If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.

High-hazard Cross Connections as Significant Deficiencies—Part 4

What Does a Good Cross Connection Control Program Look Like?

Fourth in a series by MDH engineer David Rindal
Cross-connection control program development can be a daunting task. The workload created by this effort can be reduced by limiting initial investigations to potential high hazard cross connections. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) Principles and Practices of Water Supply Operations – Water Transmission and Distribution (3rd edition) prioritized a list of common cross connections by hazard level:

Connected System - Hazard Level: High

  • Access hole flush
  • Agricultural pesticide mixing tanks
  • Aspirators
  • Boilers
  • Chlorinators
  • Cooling towers
  • Flush valve toilets
  • Laboratory glassware or washing equipment
  • Plating vats
  • Sewage pumps
  • Sinks
  • Sprinkler system
  • Sterilizers

Connected System - Hazard Level: Moderate to High

  • Car wash
  • Photographic developers
  • Pump primers

Connected System - Hazard Level: Moderate

  • Baptismal founts
  • Dishwashers
  • Swimming pools
  • Watering troughs

Connected System - Hazard Level: Low to High

  • Auxiliary water supply
  • Garden hose (sill cocks)
  • Irrigation systems
  • Solar energy systems
  • Water systems

Connected System - Hazard Level: Low to Moderate

  • Commercial food processors

Public water supply operators may consider surveying local licensed plumbers for information regarding connected systems listed as high hazards in the table above.

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Liquid Assets Minnesota News

Alva Rankin of SEH, Inc. of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, died in a traffic accident on July 23. Alva was active in the planning and execution of the Liquid Assets Minnesota documentary that has been shown on public television over the last year. Alva was also interviewed for the program on water, wastewater, and stormwater issues.

Portions of Liquid Assets Minnesota, a local look at issues explored in the national Liquid Assets documentary, were shown on the July 20, 2012 edition of Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac as a follow-up to the June flooding in Duluth. The update included segments of interviews done with Duluth mayor Don Ness last year when the documentary was filmed as well as a recent interview with the mayor regarding the impact the floods had on the city’s infrastructure. Mayor Ness will be speaking about the floods at the Minnesota American Water Works Association annual conference in Duluth on September 21.

The catalyst behind Liquid Assets Minnesota, Andrew Sullivan of Eden Prairie, will receive the Public Education Award from the Water Environment Federation (WEF) at its technical exhibition and conference in New Orleans this fall. The award recognizes WEF members for significant accomplishments in promoting awareness and understanding of water environment issues among the general public through the development and implementation of public education programs.

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ICS Training Available

Training and certification for Water Sector Intermediate (ICS-300) and Advanced (ICS-400) Incident Command System will be held from Tuesday, December 4 to Friday, December 7 at the Minnesota Department of Health Snelling Office Park offices in St. Paul. Registration on Tuesday begins at 8:00 a.m., and the workshops will be from 8:30 to 4:00 each day (with lunches provided). The training is free to all water operators and managers. Registrants must be certified in ICS 100 & 200 as a pre-requisite.

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Drinking Water Institute Draws Teachers to St. Cloud

2012 Drinking Water Institute

Science teachers from across Minnesota attended the annual Water Works! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators at St. Cloud Technical & Community College in August. Developed by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association, the institute provides three days of classes and interactive projects for teachers. Moderator Lee Schmitt of Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education leads the teachers to develop an action plan for developing inquiry-based activities that they can integrate into their existing science curriculum. The teachers will meet again this fall to perform peer-review work on their action plans. The 2013 Drinking Water Institute is tentatively scheduled for August 5 to 7 in Rochester. The institute is free to science teachers in Minnesota. More information is available on the Minnesota Department of Health website.

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Reminder to All Water Operators

When submitting water samples for analyses, remember to do the following:

  • Take coliform samples on the distribution system, not at the wells or entry points.
  • Write the Date Collected, Time Collected, and Collector’s Name on the lab form.
  • Write the Sample Point on lab forms for bacteriological and fluoride samples.
  • Attach the label to each bottle (do not attach labels to the lab form).
  • Include lab forms with submitted samples.
  • Do not use a rollerball or gel pen; the ink may run.

If you have questions, call the Minnesota Department of Health contact on the back of all sample instruction forms.

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Operator training sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota AWWA will be held in several locations this spring.

Upcoming water training schedule


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Updated Thursday, February 09, 2017 at 06:34AM