Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Winter 2012-2013 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Getting a Taste for Water

St. Paul Flavor Panel

St. Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) has been using a Flavor Profile Panel since the mid-1990s to monitor the taste and odor of its water and determine if any chemical adjustments are needed. Water quality specialist Justine Roe (shown in the middle of the above photo) oversees the panel, which is used between April and October each year. Flanking Roe, from left to right, are Andrew Magdziarz, Steve Schoenecker, Mark Cullen, Jodi Wallin, and Martha Burckhardt. (Another panelist, Mike Anderson, was unavailable for this meeting.)

Roe says six SPRWS employees make up the panel, and she wants at least four present for the weekly gatherings with the goal of the group to come up with a similar descriptor for taste and odor.

Flavor Profile Analysis is an approved Standard Method. A typical session consists of panelists determining the descriptor of three samples, one of source water, one of treated water, and one of deionized water. The samples are in flasks and labeled with a letter so that the panelists don’t know which type of sample they are sniffing. Panelists determine a descriptor (chlorinous, gassy, earthy, etc.) and then assign an intensity on a scale that runs from 1 (barely perceptible) to 12 (strongest).

After analyzing odors, the panelists get three samples to taste, two consisting of treated water and one of deionized water. “It’s similar to the sniffing portion,” says Roe. “The objective is to describe the odor and intensity. It’s just that currently we are working on determining the different samples from a group of three, with two of them the same. This is because several panelists are new, and we need practice in this area.”

SPRWS has dealt with taste and odor issues in its water during each summer and early fall, and the panel is a method of quality control. The utility also added granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment in 2007 with the biologically active filters breaking down troublesome compounds, especially geosmin, that contribute to taste and odor problems. Roe said that the number of calls they received about these issues declined significantly, from an average of 156 from 1999 through 2006 to 11 per year since 2007, after the GAC treatment was added. “You can do what you want with facts and figures,” said Cullen, “but that one [reduction in customer complaints] really tells the story.” Cullen had been quoted in a St. Paul Pioneer Press article several years ago, stating, “I just calls ‘em as I smells ‘em.”

Another type of taste test (below) was conducted this year at the State Fair. The Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) collaborated on a stage show in the Eco Experience building, inviting audience members to taste samples of water from across the state in a single-elimination tournament. Water from Golden Valley was selected as the best tasting with Melrose finishing second. Plymouth and St. Louis Park also made the Final Four. In addition to water from these cities, Blaine, Apple Valley, Lino Lakes, Champlin, Bloomington, Minnetonka, International Falls, St. John’s University, St. Cloud, St. Peter, and St. Paul entered the tournament.

State Fair Taste Test


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Bruce Olsen Retires from MDH

Bruce Olsen and Janet Kuefler
Bruce Olsen and Janet Kuefler of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bruce Olsen has retired as supervisor of the Source Water Protection Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) after a career in groundwater of more than 40 years. Olsen joined the health department in 1989 after having worked 20 years for the Minnesota Geological Survey.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented him with an award for his service and a citation that included the following:

Bruce wrote the book on wellhead and source water protection programs in Minnesota, developing both programs which are highly successful and a national model.

Bruce is extremely dedicated, works long hours, and does not get much sleep. I hear that he is known for calling staff at all hours of the day or night when he thinks of a great idea that just can’t wait.

He leads efforts to help create win-win situations for source water protection in the agricultural sector. Bruce demonstrated both innovation and determination in leading an effort which resulted in a change in USDA Conservation Reserve Program continuous signup Policy to base funding eligibility on delineated areas rather than fixed radius circles. This policy change resulted in a more efficient and effective distribution of federal conservation funding toward protecting public health.

He ensured that the state had a robust, integrated geospatial database for SWP.

He writes the most detailed, outcome oriented set-aside work plans around.

We appreciate all of his extra efforts.

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Public Water Supply Profiles: Dag Moselle and Mackenzie Hales

Dag Moselle and Mackenzie Hales

Dagmara “Dag” Moselle (on the left in the photo above) has joined the Minnesota Department of Health as a compliance engineer who will be working with lead and copper, inorganic chemicals and radionuclides, and the general water chemistry project.

Dag worked in the military for 10 years, traveling and moving about the country.  After her service, she and her husband moved to Minnesota, his home state, where she has taught engineering and science courses at a university and worked as a manager supervising the construction of wind turbine farms.      

Dag loves the outdoors and trying new ethnic cuisine.  She and her husband have a grumpy 13-year-old cat and a Lab puppy.

Mackenzie Hales is a health program representative working on a variety of compliance related topics, including the transition of the revised total coliform rule.

Mackenzie mostly grew up in Texas but also lived in Oklahoma, California, and Washington and spent summers in Idaho.  Her family—two parents, two younger siblings, and a younger border collie, Scout—now live in Utah.

Mackenzie majored in politics and environmental studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and wrote her senior thesis on the proposed large-scale groundwater transfer from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.

After college Mackenzie worked for an environmental and water resources consulting firm in Washington, D. C., and then moved to Minnesota and did contract work for Fletcher Driscoll and Associates before joining MDH.

While still in college, Mackenzie was a rock climbing instructor and led trips for the outdoor program.  She’s still up for helping anyone looking to learn how to climb rocks.

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East Bethel Spurs Development with New Water Plant

East Bethel Water TowerAnother example of the importance of water to local development has emerged in East Bethel, a bedroom community of 11,000 approximately 30 miles north of the Twin Cities, spanning both sides of Minn. Hwy. 65.

Most of the residents have private wells although a residential development, consisting of 42 houses with 120 lots still undeveloped, gets water from an existing plant on the east side of Hwy. 65.  The plant has two 8,000-gallon pressure tanks for storage and adds chlorine, fluoride, and a polyphosphate to the water.  A well drilled into the Mount Simon aquifer had supplied the water for this system, but, because of radium issues, it was replaced two years ago by a well drilled into the Ironton-Galesville aquifer (sometimes referred to geologically as the Wonewoc).

A new water and stand-alone wastewater system is now going on-line on the west side of the city, designed to spur commercial development along the Hwy. 65 corridor.  “The original thought was to promote industrial and commercial development,” said city administrator Jack Davis, who added that this may also bring some high-density housing to the area.  “With the availability of water, this changes the whole landscape.”

The new water plant was built in tandem with an interceptor sewer and wastewater reclamation plant constructed by the Metropolitan Council.  The city will pay the council for this portion with the revenue produced by the project.  The wastewater system will not connect with the rest of the Metropolitan Council’s network since the city of Ham Lake, which has no utility, is between East Bethel and Blaine to the south.

Construction began in late 2011 on a 500,000 gallon tower, and in early 2012 the city bid and awarded a contract for the treatment plant to Municipal Builders, Inc. (MBI) of Andover, Minnesota.  Public works superintendent Nate Ayshford said the dual pressure filters, which remove iron and manganese, have a rated capacity of just over 1,000 gallons a minute.  “They can handle much more, but that is their approved capacity,” said Ayshford.

East Bethel Filters
The new plant has dual pressure filters.

Two new wells serve the plant, one that is 350 feet deep and draws from the Ironton-Galesville aquifer.  The water from this well is low in iron, according to Craig Jochum of Hakanson Anderson Associates, Inc. of Anoka, Minnesota, the firm that designed the plant.  The other, which is 250 feet in a gravel seam above the Ironton-Galesville aquifer, is a higher producer but also has higher levels of manganese.  Jochum said that iron is added to the water before it reaches the filters to aid in the manganese removal.  The utility also adds sulfur dioxide to control odors and chlorine.  Fluoride is added to the water after it leaves the filters.

The water system is scheduled to be on-line in late 2012, and the sewer lines will be completed in 2013.  Davis said the entire project was financed with three bonds totaling $18.8 million.  “We’re doing more commercially,” he added.  “Water is the key to development.”

Jeremiah Haller and Nate Ayshford
Operator Jeremiah Haller and public works superintendent Nate Ayshford.


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Andrew Sullivan Honored for Outstanding Leadership in Developing Liquid Assets Minnesota: Ongoing Award to be Named after Sullivan

Carol Blommel Johnson and Andrew SullivanThe Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association (AWWA), at its annual conference in Duluth in September, presented Andrew Sullivan with the first-ever Outstanding Leadership Award.  The section also announced that the award would be renamed the Andrew Sullivan Award and presented to an individual or group for exceptional service that demonstrates initiative and dedication to the drinking water profession.

Sullivan (shown receiving the award from section chair Carol Blommel Johnson) was recognized for his role in the Liquid Assets Minnesota documentary, a local follow-up to the national Liquid Assets program, which highlighted issues related to infrastructure in drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater.  The program calls attention to the vital need to maintain infrastructure and the investments needed to do so.

After watching the Liquid Assets documentary on public television in 2009, Sullivan saw an opportunity for a similar show focused on Minnesota.  An operator with the water utility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, he contacted Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) to discuss the idea of a follow-up program illustrating critical water infrastructure in the state.

Sullivan brought together people from various organizations, including Central States Water Environment Association – Minnesota Section, West Central Initiative; Minnesota Rural Water Association, Minnesota AWWA, and West Central Initiative, as well as private companies in the water, wastewater, and stormwater industry.

The groups pledged money toward the production of a one-hour documentary and met regularly to discuss topics to be highlighted in the program.  The filming occurred across the state in the summer of 2011, and Andrew, on his own time, accompanied the TPT crews to all the sites and interviews.  He also developed a website (blueprintminnesota.com), and was constantly engaged in the project, developing the story plan, attending meetings, sending late-night e-mail messages to participants, and providing constant encouragement and support.

Liquid Assets Minnesota began showing on TPT in December 2011 and is available on the TPT web site.  The group had enough money to develop attractive and informative packaging for a DVD, which it has distributed to all cities in Minnesota and used for other outreach opportunities.

Minnesota AWWA explained that more than one Andrew Sullivan Award can be presented in a year, and it is not necessary that an award be presented each year.  The Minnesota AWWA Governing Board will determine whether an individual or group has exceeded the level necessary for recognition.

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    Minnesota AWWA Conference

    Don Ness
    Duluth mayor Don Ness spoke at the annual conference of the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association about the June 2012 flooding in northeastern Minnesota.
    Carol Kaszynski and Carol Blommel Johnson
    Minnesota AWWA chair Carol Blommel Johnson (right) presented Carol Kaszynski with the Volunteer of the Year award.
    Jim Sadler and Carol Blommel Johnson
    Jim Sadler received the L. N. Thompson award.
    Pete Moulton and Carol Blommel Johnson
    Pete Moulton received the George Warren Fuller award.
    Chris Voeltz and Nancy Zeigler
    Chris Voeltz received the Operator Meritorious Service award from Nancy Zeigler.
    St. Cloud Technical & Community College tapping team
    A team from St. Cloud Technical & Community College participated in the pipe tapping competition.


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Grant Funding Available to Seal Unused Public Water Supply Wells

Through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota constitution, funding was provided to the MDH to establish cost-share assistance to owners of unused (not-in-use) private and public water supply wells.

Request for proposals will be accepted at MDH until 4:00 p.m. on December 5, 2012.

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Eden Prairie Operators Stay Cool in Responding to Hot Situation

An electrical malfunction created a scary situation at the Eden Prairie Water Treatment Plant the evening of Friday, August 31.

Brian Schultz and Cory Dalbec were on duty when Schultz investigated the shutdown of one of the utility’s 500-horsepower pumps.  Finding the motor-starter tripped, Schultz called Dalbec to say he was going to operate the 480-volt switch and try to restart the motor.  Nothing happened on the first attempt; when Schultz tried again, the result was a flash and a bang, a room filled with smoke, and a building engulfed in darkness with all the equipment shut down. 

Schultz’s phone call was also disconnected, leaving Dalbec in a state of panic as to the condition of his co-worker.  As the emergency generator was starting, Dalbec headed for the pump room, expecting the worst.  Instead he encountered Schultz—with a grin on his face, indicating he had survived the mishap with nothing more than the smell of burnt installation.  “I knew I was all right,” said Schultz, “so all I was thinking about was getting the systems back on to keep the water flowing.”

He and Dalbec (who enjoyed a moment of rejoicing that Schultz was safe and to allow his own heart beat to settle down a bit) divided the facility into inspection zones.  In the darkness, they ensured that all valves were open, no flooding was taking place, the water coming in from the wells had a place to go, and nothing was in immediate distress.  “Everything failed open,” said Dalbec, referring to the valves, “so that was nice.”

Because of a previously unknown electrical setting made in 1997 during the last plant expansion, the generator was running but was not powering the facility.  The police, unable to reach the treatment plant when the alarm systems failed because the phones were dead, called the utility field operations on-call operator, Isaac Raser, to investigate.  Meanwhile, Schultz and Dalbec used their cell phones to reach emergency contacts at the power company, the electrician, the utility’s consulting engineer, the automation support people, the generator specialists, and the chain of command.  Kevin Carlson left home immediately and headed to the plant.  Raser and John Adie guided the contractors while the operators inspected the control systems for damage.

Brian Schultz and Cory Dalbec
Schultz and Dalbec at the scene of the action.

Rick Wahlen, the manager of utility operations, said, “Thanks to the quick thinking of Cory and Brian, the insightful guidance from Kevin, the helpful support of Isaac and John, the prompt expertise of Mark Rathje from Prairie Electric and Anthony Pitman from AE2S, and everyone pulling together as a team on a Friday night, Eden Prairie’s citizens never lost water service for a moment.  A couple of hours later, the treatment plant was back in service.”

Wahlen added that all six of the cities shared expectations—flexibility, initiative, public stewardship, results orientation, teamwork, and customer service—were demonstrated by their front-line employees that night, without any direction from management.  The employees involved were more modest, merely describing their efforts as “just taking care of the public.” 

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High-hazard Cross Connections as Significant Deficiencies—Part 5

Customer Responsibilities

Fifth in a series by MDH engineer David Rindal

A typical comprehensive cross-connection control (CCC) program at a municipality identifies an authority that has jurisdiction and that establishes the ability to implement and enforce the CCC program through an ordinance. CCC program ordinances not only describe the responsibilities of the public water supply (PWS), but also of customers. Some descriptions of customer requirements found in publicly available ordinances:

  • Protection of the water supply system from contamination or pollution between a backflow prevention assembly and the water main.
  • Protection of the water supply system from contamination or pollution within the premises.
  • Allowance for, or arrangement at the customer’s own expense of, inspection of the customer’s property for unprotected cross-connections.
  • When containment (rather than isolation) is desired, installation of a backflow prevention assembly in parallel piping sized to handle the temporary water flow needed during a time of test or repair.
  • Receipt from the PWS of standards used to determine the degree of hazard from the PWS.
  • Receipt from the PWS of notification that the customer’s premises have been classified such that it must comply with a CCC program.
  • Completion and submission to the public water supply of a cross-connection hazard survey for premises meeting certain pre-determined qualifications.
  • Installation at the customer’s own expense, upon notice from the PWS, of an approved backflow prevention device (typically within 90 days).
  • Testing of backflow prevention assemblies by a registered backflow prevention assembly technician.
  • Submission to the PWS of records of the installation, testing, and/or repair of backflow prevention assemblies subject to the CCC program (typically within 10 to 30 business days following installation/testing/repair).
  • Immediate notification of the PWS of a backflow incident within a building, property, or private water service and obligation to take steps to confine the contamination or pollution.

Examples of general cross-connection control ordinance provisions are in Chapter 7 of the EPA Cross-Connection Control Manual.

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Water on Display at Science Centers in Minnesota

Big Back Yard at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Science and education centers around Minnesota are focusing on water resources. The Big Back Yard (above) is an outdoor environmental science park at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul and includes a 300-foot-deep well drilled into the Jordan aquifer. The Minnesota Ground Water Association supported the drilling of this well in 2005, which supplies water to a drinking fountain and a spigot in the park’s Ground Water Plaza. Kids and adults collect water from the spigot in watering cans and use it to explore how water can flow through unconsolidated sediments and certain kinds of rocks. The pressure in the well is high enough to support artesian conditions (water flowing from the drinking fountain and spigot without the aid of pumping).

Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center (below) in Rochester opened in 2010. “The center was designed on the principle of interactivity,” says Bob Freund of Rochester Public Utilities, which is a partner in the center. The center includes displays devoted to water and wetlands as well as biocells, which hold water with plants, that make the parking lot “one big catch basin,” according to Freund, who added that even the roof was designed strategically, “not to shed water, but to catch it.” Other systems used to catch water are porous concrete and pervious pavers. In January 2012, the center earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest level awarded by the U. S. Green Building Council, for the green practices used in its construction and operation. (LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system to promote design and construction practices that reduce the impact on the environment and are more profitable than their conventional counterparts.)

Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center


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Words to Live By

What we think out for ourselves we’re less apt to forget.

A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.

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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.

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 06:44AM