Waterline Spring 2008 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Waterline Spring 2008 (PDF: 357KB/6 pages)

Stew Thornley
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MDH Drinking Water Web Site Gets Shorter Address, Hosts New Drinking Water Module

The web address for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) drinking-water web site has gotten shorter. It is now:


This is the site for an up-to-date training calendar for Minnesota water operators as well as brochures and fact sheets, source water assessments, and much more.

Urban Drinking Water Module Now on Web Site
The drinking water web site is now hosting a prototype version of the Urban Water Cycle drinking-water module developed by the Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education in conjunction with MDH and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association. (The prototype still has some technical glitches. A glitch-free final version will be completed in the spring of 2008.)

The module is available through a link on the home page of the website.

The Urban Water Cycle will also be available on a CD-ROM and can be used for presentations to school groups, citizens, city councils, and anyone else who wants to know more about drinking water. The module also contains a teachers’ guide for classroom education. The Urban Water Cycle has already received awards from American Water Works Association and the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators.

Rules Changes

Total Coliform Rule
A federal advisory committee is considering changes to the Total Coliform Rule. The group met in early December following a meeting of the Technical Work Group, a team of technical experts that provides data and analysis to support the advisory committee’s work.

Ideas discussed and considered by the advisory committee, which will continue to meet in 2008, include a change from a maximum contaminant level-based rule to a treatment- technique rule, better matching of rule requirements to the type and size of a system as well as to the system’s compliance history and protective barriers that are in place, a revision of the accepted analytical method list based on method performance and how soon the test result can be generated, more flexibility for routine and repeat sampling related to number and location, more meaningful public notice, and regulatory need for cross-connection control programs.

Jerry Smith, supervisor of the Noncommunity Water Program for MDH, is one of the members of the advisory committee. MDH will continue to provide information as the rule revision progresses.

Lead and Copper Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) Short-Term Regulatory Revisions and Clarifications. This final rule aims to strengthen the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule in the following areas: monitoring, treatment processes, public education, customer awareness, and lead service line replacement. It affects community and noncommunity nontransient water systems.

Some of the highlights of the revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule include:

Pre-Notification and Approval from MDH for Source or Long-term Treatment Change: All systems on reduced lead and copper tap monitoring making a long-term treatment change or adding or changing to a new water source must notify MDH in writing and obtain approval prior to implementing the change(s). Long-term treatment changes include but are not limited to the addition of new treatment processes, modifications of existing treatment processes, such as switching disinfectants, coagulants, or corrosion inhibitor products, and/or long-term dose changes to existing chemicals that would have long-term impacts on water quality.

Public Education: All systems are required to put educational language about lead in their Consumer Confidence Reports. Required language includes statements about lead in drinking water, health effects on children, and a flushing recommendation of 30 seconds to two minutes.

For systems that exceed the lead action level, the public education must contain mandatory language about the health effects of lead, including affects on I.Q., and where to find additional information. The organizations that must receive this information include childcare facilities and pre-schools.

Customer Awareness: Systems must provide lead/copper test results within 30 days upon receipt of results to the occupants at sites that are tested in the LCR tap monitoring program. Content of the notification must include results for the tap that was tested, health effects, actions to reduce
exposure, name and phone number of a contact person at the utility, maximum contaminant level goal, and action level. Systems are also required to certify that notification requirements have been met and certifications must arrive at the MDH within 90 days from the end of the monitoring period.

For more information, contact Lih-in Rezania at 651-201-4661.

Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 2
The U. S. EPA promulgated rules requiring public water systems serving populations of 10,000 or more to monitor for a number of unregulated contaminants sometime between 2008 and 2010 and report the results to the EPA. A randomly selected subset of small water systems (serving fewer than 10,000 people) has also been chosen to participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 2. Samples will be collected by MDH district engineers, and results will be electronically reported to the EPA by the laboratory designated to analyze the samples. A copy of the results will be sent to the system as soon as they are available.

For more information, contact Cindy Swanson at 651-201-4656.

Red Wing Residents Learn Job Skills while Maintaining Water System

Minnesota Correctional Facility at Red Wing

The Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF) in Red Wing has been described as a “placement of last resort for kids” by associate warden John Handy.  On an average day, the prison has 130 male juvenile offenders, most of whom have already been in county institutions.  Though they are juveniles, the average age of the resident is 17.9 years.

In addition to the juvenile residents, the facility has one unit of 30 adult male minimum-security prisoners (housed separately from the juvenile residents) and 160 staff members.  All are served by the water system on site.  But in addition to providing drinking water to residents and staff as well as the other water needs (the laundry is the largest user), the water system is providing a way for juvenile residents to learn job skills before being released.

Mike Priem, a master plumber with a quarter-century of experience in the profession, oversees the water supply at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing, about 50 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.  He says the young residents have good attitudes.  “They are very eager.  They want to learn.”

MCF Red Wing’s water comes from two multi-aquifer wells that go back to around the time the facility opened in 1889.  One is 560 feet deep and produces 280 gallons per minute (gpm).  The other is 400 feet deep and produces 70 gpm. 

The facility turns over only about 20,000 gallons a day out of a 250,000-gallon ground-storage reservoir.  This, along with dead ends on the system, has resulted in some aesthetic problems in the water.

In recent years, the system has also addressed exceedances in the standards for copper and radium.  In the 1990s, a polyphosphate was added to the existing treatment of chlorine and fluoride for the purpose of iron suspension and corrosion control to deal with the copper exceedance.

The radium issue surfaced in the early 2000s.  With the wells drawing from both the Franconia and Mount Simon aquifers, the monitoring results were indicating both high and low levels of radium.  “It was difficult to predict what the water quality would be with it drawing from different aquifers,” said Minnesota Department of Health engineer Karla Peterson, who worked with the facility on finding a remedy.  Peterson also noted that the size of one of the wells—it has a 20-inch diameter—factored into the unpredictability of the results.

To deal with the radium, the system added six ion-exchange units for softening, two on each well and two on the water heater.  In addition to reducing the radium levels, the softeners have helped with the aesthetic qualities of the water.

Working with Priem on the water system are two other full-time operators, Elmer Sylvester and Allen Gullickson, in addition to the residents, who can enter the work program after they receive their high-school diploma or general educational development (GED) equivalent. 

Approximately 50 percent of the juvenile residents graduate or get their GED while at Red Wing.  Maginnis High School, which is on-site, provides classes.  Residents who complete the course work can receive their diploma from their home high school or Maginnis High, which is accredited. 

Upon entering the work program, the residents work with maintenance staff on various jobs.  Priem, Sylvester, and Gullickson oversee the residents, who do testing of the water and other jobs under staff supervision.  They often obtain their Class E operator license.  “They [the operators] do a great job of working with residents as far as work skills go,” says associate warden Steve Hammer.

Administration Building
Volunteer Center
Clockwise from above left: The administration building, constructed in 1889; the volunteer center, which used to be the warden’s home; Maginnis High School; operators Elmer Sylvester (left) and Mike Priem (right) in front of the small well.
Maginnis High School
Elmer Sylvester and Mike Priem

Handy points out that, along with the specific skills they acquire, the residents learn the overall traits needed to stay employed.  “The absence of employment is a high-risk factor,” Handy says.  “A big problem outside [for them] is maintaining employment.” 

But learning basic skills, such as being reliable and punctual, helps the residents maintain employment when they get out.  “They see the world differently,” Handy says.  “At Red Wing, they learn to manage their emotions, solve problems. 

“They learn to make the right choices after a history of not making right choices.”

Glad You Asked?

Actual Comments Received at the Bridger-Teton National Forest in 1996

“Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.”

“Trail needs to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.”

“Too many rocks in the mountains.”

“The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.”

“A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.”


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

Upcoming water training

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Updated Friday, February 12, 2016 at 06:36AM