Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Spring 2014 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Waterline, Spring 2014
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Safe Drinking Water Act Turns 40

Al Quie
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is producing a video to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 2014. The video features interviews with Representative Betty McCollum and Steve Schneider, general manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services, as well as former governor Al Quie (above) and former vice president Walter Mondale (below), who both represented Minnesota in Congress when the act was passed. The video will be available in different formats, including social media.
Walter Mondale

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A Look at Bottled Water

Bottled Water for Sale
A stand at the Minnesota State Fair sells water. Nearby, in the Eco Experience Building, is a bottle-filling station dispensing water for free.

Tap water vs. bottled water. The tensions between producers and advocates are often evident.

Karin Holt, manager of public affairs and communications for the Coca-Cola Company in Eagan, Minnesota, doesn’t think it needs to be this way.  “We are by no means competing with tap water,” she says.

No doubt the tension will continue.  Holt said that a “Cap the Tap” campaign by Coca-Cola, characterized by Andy Bellatti of Huffington Post as a “covert assault” on tap water, has been retired.  She called Cap the Tap an “outmoded” program, a campaign aimed at Coca-Cola customers, such as restaurants, to “increase incremental sales of our beverages.”

Rik Schwarz, Coca-Cola’s director of sales for food service/on premise, said, “Our job is to create revenue for our restaurant owners.  There is nothing that talks about not getting them [wait staff] to not talk about tap water.”  Schwarz also notes that free-style units they provide with around 100 beverage choices, including Dasani, Coke’s bottled-water brand, have an option for free tap water.  He said restaurants, college campuses, and other sites for these machines wanted that option.  Schwarz acknowledged that when he started at Coca-Cola 17 years ago, “we were probably against that,” but offering tap water as a choice in their free-style and fountain machines is something they are now happy to do.  “It’s really about an informed choice.”

Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Holt understands that the Cap the Tap campaign was seen differently by many groups and says that is a “legitimate concern,” but she adds, “We don’t want to reduce the consumption of tap water.  The Cap the Tap campaign was never intended to be a broad-based commercial thing.  It was just a way for servers to say to people who asked for water, ‘Would you like something in addition to water?’  It wasn’t anything more than that.

“Companies are evolving in their viewpoints.  It’s [Cap the Tap] something that isn’t even on our radar anymore.  It’s something that hasn’t been used in years.”

Coca-Cola has more than 650 products and operates in 207 countries.  Holt and others at the Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Eagan are aware of the issues, such as environmental and health concerns about plastic bottles, the impact on groundwater supplies, and the cost of a bottle of water in contrast to that of water from the tap.

“Water is a huge area of focus for us given that water is a tremendous resource for our company and our products,” says Holt.  “It’s a key ingredient in all of our beverages.  We want to become water neutral by 2020.  To us, that means giving back to nature the same amount of water we use in our production and in our products.”

Holt explains that “giving back to nature” relates to investing in community water stewardship projects, including work with partners on farm-field management nutrient techniques, efforts to reduce runoff, ways to return water to nature, restoration of wetlands, and other water-conservation and replenishment projects.  “We fund the projects, they [the partners] carry out the work.  Coca-Cola receives water credits that offset the water it uses for its products.” 

A recent project was a nutrient management plan in the Boone River watershed in Iowa to help farmers avoid over-application of fertilizer that can be detrimental to downstream water quality and to reduce nutrient loads that contribute to low-oxygen areas in the Gulf of Mexico that no longer support aquatic life.  Partners in the project include Iowa State University, the Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Soybean and Corn Growers Association, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Coca-Cola is also working to reduce the amount of water it uses in manufacturing facilities, the amount of plastic (which is free of bisphenol-a) in its containers, and waste in the production and transport of its products.  In addition, the company has programs to encourage customers to recycle its bottles.

The Coca-Cola Foundation has been involved in disaster relief, such as donations of cash and in-kind contributions to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan last November.  The foundation also works with organizations around the world to support initiatives that respond to community needs.

“We’ve brought healthy sanitation systems to a lot of countries that don’t have clean sources of water,” says Holt.  “A lot of our investment in the Coca-Cola Foundation is through water stewardship and education.  We’re out there trying to promote people drinking healthy water and having access to clean sources of water, and we’re funding the systems to monitor and help cleanse water that isn’t healthy.”

Coca-Cola’s sustainability report is available at http://tinyurl.com/mqku6bd.

The Coca-Cola facility in Eagan uses municipal water for its employees and water drawn from the Jordan aquifer through noncommunity nontransient public water supply wells for its products.  The water for Dasani is disinfected and treated with reverse osmosis and nanofiltration to remove impurities and has a small amount of mineral salts added to enhance taste.  A company fact sheet says, “Because of purification and re-mineralized processes, Dasani and our other purified water brands provide a consistent taste wherever they are purchased, regardless of their source.”

“It’s really not the same as tap water,” adds Holt.

Public water systems are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and bottled water is regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In the case of the Minnesota bottlers, the water is regulated by both entities.

The Minnesota Department of Health, which enforces and administers the provisions of the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in the state, has a memorandum of understanding with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the regulatory arm for FDA. 

States have the option to regulate water-bottling facilities under the SDWA. Although the majority of states have not chosen to regulate bottled water, a number of them, including Minnesota, have. “We have limited our authority to regulate water bottlers to only those that use a private well and not those that use municipal water as a water supply source,” said Jerry Smith, head of the Noncommunity Public Water Supply Unit at MDH. Of the approximately 20 water bottlers in the state, about 75 percent use their own water supply source. “With a recent change in interpretation in how Minnesota Department of Agriculture is allowing the use of ‘treatment’ in the bottling process, MDH is re-examining the existing memorandum of understanding with them and how this may affect our inclusion of water-bottling facilities that obtain water from a municipal source,” Smith added. “Now, if city water is used for the product, we don’t regulate; the city water itself is already sampled and regulated.” The Department of Agriculture continues to regulate and sample the finished product, covering the area of quality-control assurance.

Brenda Eschenbacher, a public-health sanitarian with the Noncommunity Unit, has been sampling water from the noncommunity wells before treatment. Eschenbacher notes that MDH regulation with bottlers pertains only to bottled water, not to beverages such as soft drinks, carbonated water, juices, and sports drinks.

Jim Roettger, the food standards compliance officer for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, notes that after MDH determines that the bottler’s source of water is safe, his department will license the facility and monitor the finished product. The monitoring includes inspections of the bottling facilities and of the recordkeeping for sampling and laboratory analysis.

Roettger adds that they may pull a certain number of bottles and sample it in their own lab. The department rarely encounters a problem in the monitoring, and Roettger says that, in these instances, there are no contamination issues from a health standpoint; rather, the issue is mineral compounds that have only aesthetic effects.

Of the EPA regulations for public water supplies and FDA regulation of bottled water, Holt says, “The criteria are equally as stringent.”

Bottled Water Concerns
An FDA fact sheet includes a sidebar that reads, “Americans like bottled water.  According to the International Bottled Water Association, bottled water was the second most popular beverage in the U.S. in 2005, with Americans consuming more than 7.5 million gallons of bottled water—an average of 26 gallons per person.  Today, only carbonated soft drinks out sell bottled water.” (Emphasis added by the FDA.)

Critics of bottled water maintain that the popularity touted in the FDA fact sheet points out the problem and call it “an advertising and marketing success” rather than a product that has risen in stature because of a need for it.

A Dasani “Myth versus Fact” information piece provided by Coca-Cola counters with the claim that bottled water is a personal choice and one that does not compete with tap water. “It provides people with convenient access to clean, refreshing water that is easily portable in sealed containers.  Bottled water offers a consistency of taste and often, it contains unique mineral content. For all of these reasons and more, people purchase bottled water to complement their use of tap water.”

On the criticism toward bottled water, Tim Wilkin, president of the Minnesota Beverage Association, says, “I think it is important to sort out the facts from the myths and make an informed decision.  Our members’ products give consumers options that provide convenience and a consistent taste that they seek.”

MDH regulators say the question is not whether tap water is better than bottled water or vice versa.  Rather, the emphasis is on customers being informed and not paying more for bottled water based on fears of the safety of tap water.

Representatives of Coca-Cola say they concur: “We’re all for informed choices.”

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Blast from the Past: The Good Stuff

Bottled Water for Sale
On the subject of bottled water, the Summer 2008 Waterline included a story on an event at Corner Table Restaurant in Minneapolis where city officials and restaurant owners announced support of tap water along with plans to reduce or eliminate the use of bottled water. “The city supports local businesses that are modeling best practices, such as removing bottled water from their menus,” said Cara Letofsky, the policy director for the office R. T. Rybak, then the mayor of Minneapolis. Corner Table Restaurant owner Scott Pampuch noted the high quality of Minneapolis tap water, which he called “an extension” of his restaurant. Common Roots Café owner Danny Schwartzman, along with Anne Hunt of the office of St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman and Amber Collett of Corporate Accountability International, also attended.

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Water Works Park Planned for Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is planning a Water Works Park adjacent to West River Road in downtown Minneapolis. Overlooking St. Anthony Falls and offering views of the Mississippi River, the park will showcase a gate house of the city’s original water works as well as the ruins of a former grain mill.

The park is part of an overhaul to the Central Riverfront Regional Park that extends along the banks of both sides of the river.

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Little Falls Continues Implementation of Wellhead Protection Plan

Photo of well sealing in Little Falls

Little Falls, a central Minnesota city of 8,400, is midway through the implementation phase of its 10-year wellhead protection plan, developed with the help of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and set to expire in 2017.  The city had fallen behind with implementation efforts but has made great progress thanks to a grant, a significant find, and dedicated employees.

As part of implementing its wellhead protection plan, Little Falls has to seal unused and abandoned wells.  “Unused, unsealed wells can provide an open channel between the surface and an aquifer—or between a shallow aquifer and a deeper aquifer,” said MDH hydrologist Geoff Nash. “An unused well can act as a drain, allowing surface water runoff, contaminated water, or improperly disposed waste to reach an uncontaminated aquifer.”

Recently a city employee came across a 1947 map showing the locations of these wells. Nash called it “the holy grail,” as it allowed the department’s Source Water Protection (SWP) Unit to assign unique well numbers. “It was an exact map of what they needed,” said Nash. “It just couldn’t have been any better.”

Little Falls then applied for and received an $8,300 implementation grant from MDH with money available from the fund established by the 2008 Clean Water, Land, and Legacy amendment to the state constitution.

Some of the 12 abandoned wells were accessible via manholes, others were under buildings, and some under streets. Before tearing up pavement and concrete, the city wanted additional evidence of the locations of these wells.

With a portion of the grant money, Little Falls hired 3Dgeophysics, Inc., of Chaska, Minnesota, to use a proton magnetometer with GPS. The magnetometer identified anomalies, produced by metal, in the earth’s magnetic field, a means of finding and confirming the location of the wells. The additional GPS capability allowed for a map to be made to provide a permanent record of the locations, necessary as the city is phasing in the well sealing over the next few years.

Of the four wells targeted for sealing in 2013, 3Dgeophysics found three.  As for the other, it’s likely it was removed sometime in the past, possibly during a utility installation.  Little Falls has applied for a well-sealing permit to MDH, which will evaluate the situation and determine the status of that well.

Former wells 7, 10, and 12 were found.  Well 7 was just outside of City Hall (which occupies a building that served as the water treatment plant from the time it was built in the 1930s until 1973).  The well casing was only a few inches beneath the ground.  Though filled with debris and gravel, the locating of the well was an “easy job,” according to Nash.  Well 10 was under the basement of City Hall and also posed few challenges.

Well 12 was a tougher find.  Curtis Wunderlich of the MDH Well Management Section, using a magnetometer at a location indicated by the 1947 well map and by a faint anomaly from 3Dgeophysics, found a Class V injection well.  “The unexpected reuse of what was originally a brick well structure as a Class V well puzzled us at first,” said Nash. 

Wunderlich suspected that the sediment, including a chunk of concrete, at the base of the Class V well was covering a well casing.  Nash added, “We suspected that the chunk of concrete was part of a past well-sealing effort.  Troweling or dumping concrete into the upper few feet of a well was a method of ‘abandoning’ wells before regulations.”

To avoid entering a confined space, Wunderlich lowered a magnetometer on a rope into the Class V well structure and found a magnetic signature for well 12 beneath it.  “Curtis is like a bloodhound when it comes to locating wells,” said Dwayne Heinen, the assistant water supervisor for Little Falls.  “He just doesn’t give up.”

The next day a city worker (complying with requirements for confined-space entry) moved the concrete to reveal a six-inch diameter pipe, from 1926, that was well 12.  At that point, city crews put a sleeve over the casing to make for easier access for the drillers.  Wells 7 and 12 were later cleaned of obstructions and sealed in accordance with the Minnesota Well Code by Northland Drilling of Randall, Minnesota.

Gail Haglund, Mark Wettlaufer, and Trudi Witkowski of the MDH SWP Unit praised the efforts of Heinen, who came on board in June 2011 just in time to be given the implementation duties.  In addition to the well sealing, Heinen has been busy with educational activities, including nitrate clinics, and working with local units of government on the plan.  “He didn’t just want to meet the minimum requirements,” said Witkowski.  “He did more than was needed.”

Little Falls will be applying for additional grants to continue its program of sealing the rest of the wells.  Nash notes that the city’s efforts are protecting the aquifers beneath it and ultimately its drinking water and public health.

Heinen said the experience has reinforced the importance of protection efforts and the sealing of wells.  “There can be a 100-foot pipe going right down into the aquifer.  The possibility of contamination is high.  It’s not just about one well.  It’s about the entire area.”

On working with Little Falls, Nash said, “They went from nearly being out of compliance to being enthusiastically on board.  It was a lot of fun to watch.”

Note: The MDH Well Management Section also has grants available for sealing public wells.  For current information, go to Well Management Well Sealing.

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Compliance Corner

By Mackenzie Hales, Minnesota Department of Health

30 Hour Holding Time
As of January 1, 2014 bacteriological samples have to arrive at your designated lab within 30 hours of the sample being collected. All samples received more than 30 hours after collection will be rejected, and the sample will have to be recollected. If a valid sample is not collected during the compliance period, a monitoring and reporting violation will be issued and public notification will be required.

MDH has been notifying community systems when samples are received over 30 hours after they were collected. Please continue discussing shipping options with your assigned lab, and consider using another shipping method if your samples are consistently late. Proper planning can also help avoid exceeding the 30-hour limit. Check with local mail service options about pick-up times, as this may help you plan your sampling schedule. For example, if the truck comes to pick up packages at 4 p.m., sample in the early afternoon instead of in the morning to reduce the amount of time the sample sits outside of transport.

Repeat Sampling Procedure—Monthly Systems
If your system is collecting monthly bacteriological samples and you are notified of a positive for total coliform (E. coli absent), make sure you follow the proper repeat sampling procedures. Repeat samples must be collected within 24 hours after notification. Repeat samples should be collected at the original positive location, upstream, downstream, and at a random location. Groundwater systems must also collect repeat sample(s) from the well(s) that were pumping during the time the original positive occurred.

Bacteriological Monitoring and Reporting—Monthly Systems Submitting Paper Reports
MDH must receive monthly bacteriological/disinfectant residual reports from systems or labs by the 10th of the following month. For example, the January report must be received by MDH on or before February 10. Systems are responsible for making sure MDH receives the report, meaning that if you contract with the lab to send the report to MDH, you are still responsible for making sure it is sent and received by MDH. Electronic delivery is the best way to obtain confirmation. PDFs can be emailed to health.drinkingwateradvisory@state.mn.us.

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Bob Carpenter and Wayne Enney Die

Former Oslo water superintendent Bob Carpenter died at the age of 81 on November 29. “Bobbie Carpenter was a real hard worker,” recalled a colleague, Carroll Flaten. “He used to keep that water plant running 24 hours a day in the summer all by himself and he had to fix the water breaks also. He never got any overtime for it, either.”

Wayne Enney, former utility operations manager for the city of Bloomington, died October 13. Enney was chair of the North Central (now Minnesota) Section of AWWA in 1987 and director from the Minnesota Section 1993-96. He received the section’s L. N. Thompson award in 1992 and the George Warren Fuller award in 1989. Enney worked for the Bloomington Utilities of Public Works from 1966 to 1996.

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Target Field on Tap for Metro School

A tour of the water treatment facilities at Target Field will be a part of the 2014 Metro District Operators School on Wednesday, April 2. The tour will be limited to the first 40 attendees who sign up at the beginning of the school, which will run from April 1-3. This popular tour wasn’t available last year because the Twins were at home during the school.

Note: the registration form is for the school itself; the Target Field tour will require in-person sign-up. Only in-person sign-up for the tours will be allowed (attendees may not sign up for co-workers or others).

Metro District Water Operators School

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Fluoride Source Water Survey

By David Rindal, MDH Engineer

The January 2011 Health and Human Services proposed recommendation of 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L) fluoride in fluoridated community water supplies prompted several conversations about fluoridation in Minnesota. One topic of discussion has been the anticipated level of need for fluoridation given various potential optimum and minimum fluoride levels. In order to provide affected community public water system (PWS) owners and operators with information critical to fluoridation planning, MDH is facilitating a Fluoride Source Water Survey between January 27 and March 31, 2014. The results of survey will be used to determine needs and engineering considerations related to community water fluoridation.

Municipal and rural water community PWSs will be asked to collect raw water source samples from all active primary wells and surface-water intakes. Participating PWSs will notice a row named “Source Fluoride Investigation” on their 2014 Annual Monitoring Schedule. That row will include the scheduled date and number of active primary water sources to be sampled within a specific week between January 27 and March 31, 2014.

The Fluoride Source Water Survey procedure differs from standard fluoride compliance sampling in several other important ways:

  • PWS operators must be careful to match MDH well numbers to corresponding PWS well numbers.
  • Scheduled sample dates may fall on any weekday (excluding holidays).
  • Source wells should be operated for at least 30 minutes or one casing volume prior to sampling.
  • Combined transmission lines must be isolated to a single well and flushed at least one volume.
  • Sources which are out of service must have their locations properly crossed out and initialed on the Environmental Health Laboratory request form.

MDH will ship sample materials (125 mL unpreserved bottles, lab request forms, bottle labels, mailing containers, mailing labels) to participating community PWSs during January 2014.

If you have any questions regarding the Fluoride Source Water Survey, please contact me at 651-201-4660 or david.rindal@state.mn.us.

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2014 Drinking Water Institute to be Held in St. Paul

Water Works! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators, held at the Cascade Meadow Environmental Learning Center Rochester in 2013, will be conducted at MINNCOR Industries this summer from Monday, August 4 to Wednesday, August 6. Each year Minnesota science teachers attend the three-day Institute, learning about drinking water and about ways to develop inquiry-based activities that can be incorporated into their
existing science curriculum.

The program is free to interested teachers, who will receive college credit for their participation.

Water Works! is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Section of AWWA and is conducted through a partnership with Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education.

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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.
  • Consult your monitoring plan(s) prior to collecting required compliance samples.

Notify your Minnesota Department of Health district engineer of any e-mail changes for contact people.

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

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Words to Live By

It isn’t what you know that counts; it’s what you can think of in time.

Everyone is ignorant—only on different subjects.
—Will Rogers

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.
—Elbert Hubbard

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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.

Minnesota Water Operators Training Schedule


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Updated Thursday, February 09, 2017 at 06:37AM