Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Summer 2013 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Waterline, Summer 2013
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New Ulm Treatment Plant Provides the Main Ingredient for Schell’s Beer

Photo of New Ulm Water Treatment Plant
Opened in 1994, the New Ulm water treatment plant serves more than 13,000 residents and provides water to Schell’s Brewery, which performs additional treatment to make Schell’s Beer. See Schell's Starts with the Water below for the full story.

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Poster Contest Brings in More than 500 Entries

A student from Bluffview Montessori School in Winona submitted the winning entry (below) in a contest within Minnesota Schools in which more than 500 students submitted posters about drinking water. Winning posters at the grade-school, middle-school, and high-school levels were also selected.

Image of the winning poster in the poster contest

Funded by grants from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) as well as H2O for Life, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Bongard Corporation/Elkay, and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association, a bottle filling station will be awarded to the schools of the students who produce the winning posters. In addition, a $50 check will be awarded to each of the four student winners. The winners were announced in conjunction with World Water Day on March 22.

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MDH Releases Annual Report

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has revamped its annual drinking water report, which it has released since 1995, into a more eye-catching, 22-page document: Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection Annual Report 2012.

Image of the cover of the drinking water annual report

The report, released during Safe Drinking Water Week in early May, has pictures, graphs, and sidebar articles that include success stories related to source water protection and treatment.

The report can also be downloaded by people with Quick Response (QR) code readers by scanning the image below:

Image of the QR tag for the drinking water annual report

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Schell’s Starts with the Water

Jace and Ted Marti
Jace and Ted Marti in the old brewhouse, built in the 1880s.

"The first thing you start out talking about is water quality,” says Jace Marti.  “It’s the main ingredient in beer.”

Marti is a brewmaster at Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm, Minnesota, and a sixth-generation descendent of August Schell, who co-founded the brewery in 1860.  A native of Durbach, Germany, Schell came to the United States in 1848 and found his way to New Ulm.  Not finding any of the German beer he was fond of in the area, Schell started a brewery, using an artesian spring as a water source and the nearby Cottonwood River for transportation of the finished product.

At the time, most of the brewing was done in the winter, and the beer was kept in caves—staying cool with blocks of ice from the river—for aging and fermentation and to store the product for the peak summer months. 

Schell’s survived the Dakota War in southern and western Minnesota in 1862 and expanded.  The brewery and grounds now cover 40 acres with scenic gardens, a deer park (in addition to a year-round residency of peacocks) and a mansion, making it a popular tourist destination in the summer as well as the site of the annual Bock Fest event in the winter.

Eventually the springs were replaced by wells.  In 1995 Schell’s switched to water provided by the city, which opened its water treatment plant.  City water comes from the quaternary buried artesian and undifferentiated cretaceous aquifers, tapped by 13 wells, ranging in depth from 62 to 247 feet. 

Joel Johnson, the chief operator for the New Ulm utility, said they feed potassium permanganate and chlorine for manganese and iron removal and have five sand filters at the city's water treatment plant.  New Ulm averages 2.5 million gallons per day (MGD) throughout the year with the production reaching about 3.5 MGD during the summer.  Of that amount, Schell’s uses approximately 1.2 million gallons per month in brewing 130,000 barrels of beer a year.

Marti says the brewery is still getting water from the same aquifers as it had during the time it had its own wells.  The groundwater, with its iron and hardness, is more suited to brewing English-style ales, Marti explained, adding that the New Ulm water profile is similar to England’s Burton upon Trent, a major brewing city.

The German lagers and Pilsners require softer water, and the brewery performs its own water treatment, which includes reverse-osmosis and an iron filter at the head of the brewing.  The water treated at the municipal plant is then blended with more city water with the goal of reducing the hardness to 50 parts per million.

“There are certain elements [of the water] good for brewing and some that aren’t,” said Ted Marti, Jace’s dad and the company president.  Ted attended Siebel’s Institute of Brewing in Chicago and has been a brewmaster since 1975.  Jace went to school in Berlin and became a brewmaster in 2011.  Besides Ted and Jace Marti, Schell’s has two other brewmasters, Jeremy Kral and Dave Berg, among its 57 full-time employees.

Equipment from 1885 at Schell's Brewery

Equipment from 1885 (above) and current equipment, the reverse-osmosis unit, at Schell’s (below).

Reverse osmosis equipment at Schell's Brewery

In addition to eight year-round specialty brands and eight seasonal brands, Schell’s now brews Grain Belt Beer with three different labels.  Grain Belt used to have a large brewery in northeast Minneapolis, but the facilities have been converted to a library and space for other uses.  The Twin Cities also had Hamm’s and Schmidt breweries, but Jace Marti notes that consumer preferences have been changing with the craft-beer revolution.

Schell’s remains one of the few large breweries in the state, along with Cold Spring in central Minnesota.  Summit Brewing in St. Paul has also risen in prominence. 

From the micro-breweries to full-scale facilities for beer production, it all starts with the water.

Peacock at Schell's Grounds at Schell's Brewery
Peacocks are year-round residents on the grounds of Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm.
Vats in the brewing room at Schell's Brewery Watermains from the 1800s at Schell's Brewery
Vats in the brewing room are used to separate the grain from the liquid (left). Watermains from the 1800s, when a cistern was used for water storage, are still visible (right).

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The Water that Grew with the Great Northwest

Photo of Zeke Mark taking a water sample of Schmidt Organic Water
Minnesota Department of Health public health sanitarian Ezekiel Mark takes an annual water quality monitoring sample from Schmidt Organic Water.

A brewery for more than a century, a site along West Seventh Street in St. Paul is continuing to produce an even more precious product—drinking water. Schmidt Organic Water has a pair of water dispensers on the outside of its building, and people line up on a regular basis to fill their jugs.

Schmidt, “The Brew that Grew with the Great Northwest,” is the most-remembered beer that has been made here since Chistopher Stallman founded a brewery on the property in 1855. Now a well extends more than 1,000 feet into the Mount Simon-Hinckley aquifer to draw water, which is treated through aeration and filtration (for iron removal) but with no chemical addition.

Site manager Phil Gagné says they increased the price of water from 50 to 75 cents per gallon at the beginning of 2013 and continue to sell an average of 200 gallons a day.

The buildings are now being converted into other uses, including artist lofts and a brew house, where beer under a new label will be sold. The water vending along West Seventh Street will remain and continued to be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Compliance Corner

By Mackenzie Hales
Minnesota Department of Health
Community Water Supply Unit

30-hour holding time: Total Coliform samples should arrive at the lab within 30 hours after sampling. Due to U. S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements and studies pointing to significant bacteria die-off in water samples between 30 to 48 hours old, the Minnesota Department of Health must start moving towards upholding this limit. Community systems will begin receiving calls when samples are received more than 30 hours after they were taken. Please discuss 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 around outside of transport. Thanks for your cooperation!

Please properly fill your total coliform sample bottles! Make sure to fill sample bottles with the proper amount of water. We have been receiving a lot of samples with insufficient volume to run the required analysis. (See the photo for proper water levels.)

Image of sample bottles

Disinfection residual lab form: Fill out all required fields on lab forms. If your system measures the chlorine residual, make sure to write this in the proper field on the lab form. The sampling time should be recorded, and the am/pm box must be checked. Systems may use military time, and if no am/pm is checked, the lab will assume that the time is written in military time.

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Drinking Water Institute in Rochester

Water Works! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators will be held in Rochester this summer from Monday, August 5 to Wednesday, August 7. 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 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. More information is available on the MDH website at Water Works! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators.

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High-Hazard Cross Connections as Significant Deficiencies—Part 7

Cross Connection Control from a National Perspective

Seventh in a series by MDH engineer David Rindal

Nobody likes to re-invent the wheel. One way to avoid this is to observe and build on successful tools related to your goal. For instance, it might be helpful to those of you thinking about a cross connection control program to learn what has worked (or at least what has been financed) at public water supplies (PWSs) across the nation.

A 1999 American Backflow Prevention Association survey of PWSs returned the following information about the most commonly observed cross connections among 135 respondents:

Type of Cross Connection
Minnesota Plumbing Code Requirements - 2013*
Fire systems
Garden/washdown hoses
AVB or Hose VB
Carbonation systems
Cooling towers
Swimming pools
Food equipment
Sewers/waste facilities
    *where an air gap cannot be provided

Key to abbreviations: AVB - atmospheric vacuum breaker; PVB - pressure vacuum breaker; SVB - spill-proof vacuum breaker; Hose VB - hose connection vacuum breaker; DCV/IAV - double-check valve with intermediate atmospheric vent; DCVA - double-check valve assembly; RPZ - reduced pressure zone backflow preventer assembly.

How are other PWSs prioritizing elements within their cross connection control programs? The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Community Water System Survey in 2000 asked this question and received the following results from 767 PWSs:

Percentage of PWSs with Each Element in Their Cross Connection Control Program

Graph of PWSs with each element in their cross-connection control program

Although community PWSs are encouraged to adopt comprehensive approaches, observation of national trends may help inform prioritization throughout the development of a cross connection control program.

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    Electronic Delivery Options for Consumer Confidence Reports

    Community water systems must distribute their Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) by July 1 and can use a combination of methods, including a new electronic delivery option, to deliver them. Electronic delivery can be done through the mail with a postcard listing a direct link to the CCR and/or through an e-mail message that includes a direct link, the CCR as a file attachment, or the CCR embedded in the e-mail message. In addition, systems must provide a paper copy of the report to anyone who requests it.

    In all cases, a link must take customers directly to the report rather than to a page (such as the city’s utility site) that requires further navigating. In addition, efforts must be made to reach customers who do not receive a water bill, such as renters.

    Water systems may get their CCR information from the Minnesota Department of Health’s web site at http://health.state.mn.us/ccr (User ID: commccr and Password: CCRDraft!). Water systems can get their report off the web site or make a specific request to MDH to receive the reports in the mail.

    For more information, contact Lih-in Rezania, 651-201-4661, or Cindy Swanson, 651-201-4656.

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    Many Small Systems Continue to Face Day-to-Day Challenges with System Management

    By Lori Blair, Minnesota Rural Water Association

    The Check Up Program for Small Systems (CUPSS) is a free, easy-to-use, asset management tool for small drinking water and wastewater utilities. CUPSS provides a simple, comprehensive approach to help you develop a record of your assets, a schedule of required tasks, an understanding of your financial situation, and a tailored asset management plan.

    CUPSS software has four main goals:

  1. Assist with communication between system staff and decision makers.
  2. Help move systems from crisis management to informed decision making.
  3. Facilitate more efficient and focused utility operations.
  4. Improve financial management to make the best use of limited resources.

    The software is structured through a series of modules to collect information on a utility’s assets, operation and management activities, and financial status for setting up an asset management plan. You can order a copy by calling 800-490-9198 to request the EPA 816-K-08-002 user’s kit. CUPSS also has technical support by e-mail at cupss@epa.gov.

    A series of conference calls is being held quarterly this year for both new and experienced CUPSS users and trainers. The CUPSS Community Calls provide a forum for those using, training, and learning about CUPSS to hear updates and asset management strategies from CUPSS practitioners.
    Upcoming CUPSS Community Calls (all calls will be held 1:00-2:00 p.m. Central time):

    Wednesday, July 31
    Thursday, October 31

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    Which Standards Apply to Me?

    By Todd Johnson
    Minnesota Department of Health

    The Fall 2012 issue of the Waterline contained an article about new health-based guidance for manganese that the Minnesota Department of Health had recently issued. This begs the questions, “How exactly is health based guidance different than a maximum contaminant level (MCL)?” and “Which standard applies to my public water supply (PWS)?”

    MCLs are health-based drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and enforced by MDH through a primacy agreement. MCLs are enforceable for PWSs only, not for private wells. EPA also develops maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs), which are the levels at which no known or anticipated adverse effects occur and which allows for an adequate margin of safety. MCLs are set as close to the MCLG as possible but also take into account other factors, such as the best available treatment technology and the cost by PWSs across the country to meet the standard. As a result, MCLs are set at a level that is equal to or greater than MCLGs.

    EPA also develops secondary MCLs, which are non-enforceable guidelines for contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or have aesthetic effects (taste, odor, color). PWSs are not required to comply with secondary MCLs. An example of a contaminant that has a secondary MCL is iron. The secondary MCL for iron is 300 micrograms per liter; levels above this value are not harmful to human health but can cause staining of clothes and fixtures.

    Health-based guidance values are also developed by EPA as well as by MDH. These values differ from MCLs in that they are just as the name suggests—guidance values—and are not enforced by MDH at PWSs. They are based solely on health and do not take into account factors such as occurrence or cost to treat.

    An MDH Health Based Value (HBV) is the concentration of a chemical in groundwater that is unlikely to pose a health risk to the general public and is designed to protect vulnerable subpopulations, such as infants and children. Once an HBV has been promulgated (through formal rulemaking), it becomes a Health Risk Limit (HRL). At the request of state agencies, MDH also develops Risk Assessment Advisory (RAA) for chemicals that lack adequate data to develop an HBV.

    Health-based guidance values are used by some agencies as a basis for determining whether or not water is considered “safe” for consumption. An example would be in an area where private wells are affected by a contamination source (landfill, gas station, industry). They have also been applied as guidance for PWSs when MCLs are not available. This was the situation in 2004 when perfluoro-compounds were detected in the water supplies of several PWSs in the eastern Twin Cities metropolitan area. Since MCLs had not been developed for these compounds, MDH developed health-based guidance, and PWSs used these values as a guideline for determining whether treatment should be installed and to what level.

    Drinking Water Contaminants (from EPA)

    Guidance Values and Standards for Contaminants in Drinking Water (from MDH)

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Good Thoughts to Gnaw On

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have of trying to change others.
—Jacob M. Braude

The person who can’t figure out what to do with a Sunday afternoon is often the same one who can’t wait for retirement.

The acid test of intelligence is its ability to cope with stupidity.

Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.
—Wernher von Braun

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
—William James

Nostalgia is longing for a place you wouldn’t move back to.

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Cool Web Sites

Image of a spider webMinnesota Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network

The Peter M. Sandman Risk Communication Website

Minnesota Department of Health: Drinking Water Protection

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Minnesota History Center

infoplease: State Capitals and Largest Cities

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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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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 Friday, February 24, 2017 at 06:12AM