Waterline Winter 2008-2009 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

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Waterline Winter 2008-2009 (PDF: 574KB/6 pages)

Stew Thornley

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Promoting Education with Teachers

Booth at Education Minnesota Conference
Minnesota American Water Works Association had a booth at the Education Minnesota Conference to promote its educational materials to teachers from around the state.

Public Review for Metropolitan Area Master Water Supply Plan

In 2005, the Minnesota Legislature directed the Metropolitan Council to undertake specific water supply planning activities, including the development of a Metropolitan Area Master Water Supply Plan. The public review period for this draft plan runs through December 16.

Comments may be submitted to the Metropolitan Council by attending one of the public meetings or by one of the following methods:

Mail: Metropolitan Council Data Center
390 N. Robert Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101


Fax: 651-602-1500


Public Meetings:
December 2, 2008, 10AM - 12PM
Woodbury City Hall, 8301 Valley Creek Road

December 3, 2008, 10AM - 12PM
Savage City Hall, 6000 McColl Drive

December 4, 2008, 10AM - 12PM
Maple Grove Community Center, 12951 Weaver Lake Road

The public meetings are from 10 a.m. to noon.

Annual Monitoring Schedules Coming Soon

By Kathy Russell
Minnesota Department of Health

The Community Public Water Supply Unit has provided public water supplies with an Annual Monitoring Schedule (AMS) for about 15 years. For the first several years the schedule was referred to as the Annual Sampling Schedule, but that acronym was somewhat disrespectful when said quickly three times in a row, so the AMS moniker was eventually born.

The AMS lists specific contaminants that have been scheduled for monitoring, the day and month the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has scheduled for the collection of the samples, and whether or not any reports must be submitted to the MDH, e.g., Consumer Confidence Report, monthly fluoride, and bacteriological reports.

Feedback from the public water supplies has been very positive regarding this tool. There is no doubt it has been helpful for the water supplies, and when systems are missing or have misplaced their AMS, they can call for a replacement to be sent. In the last several years, the AMS has also been laminated, and the systems have given feedback about appreciating the durability since conditions where the AMS is likely to be located are usually not pristine.

The Annual Monitoring Schedules are sent out to the water supplies in mid-to-late December and are a bright color every year.

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Capacity Development Report Available

The Minnesota Department of Health is required to inform the governor regarding the effectiveness of our capacity development program every three years.

The report sent to the governor is on-line.

The report indicates that all is well, and that the state’s drinking water program is in the 99th percentile for compliance.

Bottled Water News

Study Finds Contaminants in “Pure” Bottled Water
Bottler Sues Utility for “Attack” on Its Product

The Environmental Working Group of Washington, D. C., found a variety of contaminants—including coliform bacteria, caffeine, acetaminophen, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals, and the radioactive element strontium—in 10 brands of bottled water it purchased in California, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Although the brands met federal health standards for drinking water, the tests indicated that bottled water is no purer than tap water.

Jane Houlihan, one of the study’s co-authors, said, “In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better.”

Meanwhile, Nestle Waters North American, makers of Zephyrhills bottled water, is threatening to sue a Florida water utility for a series of radio ads in which tap water was characterized as cheaper, purer, and safer than bottled water.

The ads featured a talking water faucet saying, “You think bottled water is purer and safer? You think it’s better? Well, you’re wrong. It’s just the opposite. Bottled water is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Tap water is. That’s why you always can be sure Miami-Dade tap water is superior. Stop wasting your money!”

According to John Renfrow of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, the ads were aimed at a large immigrant population, particularly those from areas that don’t have a reliable and safe supply of water.

A Nestle spokesman called the ads “an attack on the product we produce.”

However, environmental groups characterized the threatened lawsuit “as a warning shot from an industry worried about slow sales after years of gushing growth.”

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Drinking Water Institute Features Teacher with Century-old Water Tower

Drinking Water Institute 2008
Copper Water Tower
Copper Water Tower

The annual Drinking Water Institute for Educators, held in Lakeville in August, included a visit to a nearby well-drilling site (left). More than 20 teachers attended the three-day Institute, where they learned about drinking water and ways to incorporate it into their science curriculum. This was the seventh Drinking Water Institute to be held. The Institutes are co-sponsored by Minnesota American Water Works Association and the Minnesota Department of Health and conducted with the participation of the Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education. The 2009 Institute will be held August 10-12 in Oakdale.

One of the teachers in the 2008 Institute, Maggie Killeen, lives in an 1853 house in Prescott, Wisconsin, with her husband, Michael Adrian. The home, on the St. Croix River, has a copper water tower on the property (shown in the center and right photos above). According to Maggie, who teaches in the St. Paul school system, documents and newspaper clippings indicate that the water tower was built in 1903. “It was first powered by a windmill and then later by a gasoline engine,” said Maggie, adding that her husband this year unearthed the last of the pipes leading to the tower from the river.

Red Flag Rule Related to Identity Theft Delayed to May 2009

As part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, the “Red Flag Rule” to address discrepancies and spot identity-theft red flags has been delayed until May 1, 2009. Although the rule principally applies to banks, large credit institutions, and high-volume transaction entities, the definitions in the rule for “creditor” and “covered account” appear to apply to drinking-water utilities for customer data protection and fraud prevention, according to the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA).

Because many utilities are part of a larger municipal entity, these “red flag” provisions should/would be handled through the local government rather than separately or individually by the water system. Those systems that are not part of a municipal structure would also have responsibility to protect their customers but are less likely to use electronic means to accept payments. For most water utilities, Red Flag Program enforcement would depend primarily on customer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Protecting water utility customer information against identity theft is both a good business practice and an enhancement to a water system’s security efforts. Cybersecurity protections are often overlooked,” according to ASDWA.

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92nd Annual Minnesota AWWA Conference

Jon Eaton receiving Fuller award Karla Peterson receives Past Chair award
The 92nd annual Minnesota American Water Works Association (AWWA) Conference was held in September in Duluth. Association representative Jerry Stevens presented the George Warren Fuller award to Jon Eaton of Bloomington (above left). Outgoing chair Karla Peterson received a plaque of appreciation from incoming chair Bill Spain (above right). In the photos below, Jerry Stevens presents a Life Member award to Dan Boyce of East Grand Forks and the Volunteer of the Year award to Lisa Vollbrecht of St. Cloud. At the bottom, Naeem Qureshi of Progressive Consulting Engineers accepts the Leonard N. Thompson award.
Dan Boyce receiving Life Member award Lisa Vollbrecht receives the Volunteer of the Year award
Lisa Vollbrecht receives the Volunteer of the Year award

CCR Compliance Is 100 Percent

Community water systems in Minnesota achieved 100 percent compliance for submissions of 2007 Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR). “This is impressive,” said Kathy Russell, who handles the CCR submissions for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “Because Minnesota systems submit these reports on time, MDH has achieved some of the best CCR compliance rates in the nation.”

Ground Water Rule Assessment Monitoring

Assessment Source Water Monitoring will be one of three primary Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Ground Water Rule procedures with the other being Triggered Source Water Monitoring and sanitary survey significant deficiency identification.

This rule provision focuses on new or existing ground water sources that may be susceptible to fecal contamination. MDH will require a small number of ground water systems to conduct monthly monitoring for potential fecal indicators during a 12-month period. Local pathogen sources, well availability, geologic sensitivity, disinfection status, and past water quality analyses will be used to select candidates. Systems will benefit through early identification of any potential fecal contamination as part of Ground Water Rule activities.

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St. Joseph Water Plant Provides Pulchritude on the Prairie

St. Joseph Water PlantThe world abounds with examples of form taking precedence over function.  However, the water treatment plant in St. Joseph, Minnesota, combines function and form.  The plant, which opened in 2007 and removes iron and manganese, is on the edge of town, across Interstate 94 from the rest of the city. 

Now standing virtually alone off the freeway and Stearns County Road 2, the plant was designed to be aesthetically pleasing in anticipation of the additional development that will be taking place in the area.  “They didn’t want to build a typical square building,” said operator Mike Sworski.  “Being the first ones out here, they wanted to set a pattern.”  With an arch and a curved roof, the structure has more of a look of a community center rather than a municipal utility.

But the building has some brawn in addition to the beauty as it features plate settlers to reduce the sludge, which typically would go to a sanitary sewer.  The sewer is nearly a mile away, and plans to extend the line aren’t in the works and won’t be until future development reaches the outskirts.  “We figured that out rather quickly when we got across the freeway,” said John Thom of SEH, Inc. of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, the design-engineering firm.  With the sewer not an option, the plant was built with plate settlers, normally used in the wastewater industry, to keep the sludge to a minimum.  The sludge is stored on site before being hauled into town.

The backwash water is recycled at 10 percent of the raw-water flow coming into the plant.  “So if we have 800 gallons coming in, 80 gallons go into plate settler,” explained Sworski.  The end result is 2 percent or less of waste from the backwash water.  Sworski noted that at the old plant, which is still being used, the backwash water sits for eight hours.  At the new plant, they are able to start the reclaim process right away.

St. Joseph Water Plant
St. Joseph Water Plant

The new plant oxidizes iron and manganese through aeration, then has four cells of anthracite/greensand filters.  It can produce three million gallons per day, three times the capacity of the old plant, which is tucked in amid houses and other buildings in the heart of St. Joseph, leaving no room for expansion.  Sand filters remove primarily iron at the old plant because water from the wells that serve it is low in manganese.  The plants are run separately, and the water is blended in the distribution system.

With the construction of the new plant came three new wells and a one-mile extension of the distribution system.  Thom said that the ground had to be built up since they were below the water table.  “The bottom of any basin must be above the water table by two feet,” he explained.

“It was quite the learning process for us,” said Sworski of the plate settlers, adding, “It definitely does what it’s supposed to do.”

Plate Settlers at St. Joseph Water Plant Old St. Joseph Water Plant
Plate settlers at the new plant (left). The existing plant (right) in the heart of St. Joseph.

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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

The Minnesota Section AWWA web site has a page with links to water operator schools around the state. These pages contain agendas for the schools if they are available.

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Updated Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 04:00PM