Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Winter 2013-2014 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health
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Stew Thornley

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Waterline, Winter 2013-2014
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Bring in the New Year with a Lead-Free Cheer!

By Dag Moselle and Lih-in Rezania, Minnesota Department of Health

On January 4, 2014, the federal Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act will go into effect, requiring drinking water system components sold or installed, which include plumbing in facilities, to meet a weighted average of not more than 0.25 percent lead (which is considered lead-free). It will be illegal to install and use any pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting, or fixture that is not lead-free after the effective date. All water systems that provide water for human consumption must use materials, devices, and components that meet the new lead-free requirement.

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act revises the “lead-free” definition in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in Section 1417(d) from a weighted lead content of 8 percent or less, to a weighted average of less than or equal to 0.25 percent for surfaces in contact with potable water. It does not change the definition of lead-free for solder or flux, which remains as containing not more than 0.2 percent lead. Minnesota Plumbing Code is currently under review by the Minnesota Plumbing Board for revisions to conform to the new lead-free definition of the SDWA.

When water-system components, such as meters, are temporarily removed for routine maintenance, these fixtures are not subject to the new lead-free definition because they will be returned to the same location with no repair. However, if fixtures are being installed or repaired, they will be required to meet the lead-free requirements.

To prepare for complying with the lead-free requirements in January 2014, it is recommended that water systems remove products that are not lead-free from their inventories, dispose of these products, or use these items for non-potable purposes. A draft of frequently asked questions compiled by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to help assist and guide the transition to meeting the lead-free standards, Draft Reduction of Lead In Drinking Water Act Frequently Asked Questions.

Only products complying with the new lead-free requirements shall be used starting January 2014. Products bearing a certified mark such as NSF-61-G, NSF pw-G, NSF-372, NSF ≤0.25% Lead, and NSF≤ 0.25% Pb are third-party certified for lead-free compliance.

Be aware that not all American National Standards Institute certification marks will indicate the product is lead-free. Some certifications will be particular to each third-party certification body and some will include a text. If at any time you are unable to determine if a product is lead-free, contact the manufacturer to confirm the lead content. Detailed information on lead-free, low-lead water products, and product certifications can be found at:

How to Identify Lead-Free Certification Marks for Drinking Water System & Plumbing Materials

Lead Content Compliance

We appreciate your efforts in reducing the lead content within our drinking water systems. If you have any additional questions or comments to share, please contact Lih-in Rezania at 651-201-4661 or Dag Moselle at 651-201-4672 at the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Jim Lundy Named Hydrologist Supervisor at MDH

Jim Lundy

Jim Lundy is the new hydrologist supervisor in the Source Water Protection Program at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) after nine years of conducting groundwater studies on various chemicals, including nitrate and radium, at MDH. Before that he spent 16 years in remediation programs at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Originally from LaGrange, Illinois, Jim received his bachelor’s degree in geology and geography from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and his master’s degree in structural geology from the University of Minnesota. In the 1980s, he was a consulting geologist for an environmental engineering company and also an exploration geologist in northern Minnesota.

His travels outside of North America have taken him to Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Portugal, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Most recently he and his wife, Sherryl Livingston, a supervisor for the MPCA, visited their kids, who spent summers working in Alaska (daughter Rose, 19 years old and currently a second-year Badger at Wisconsin) and Washington, D.C. (son Sean, 22 years old and an Iowa State Cyclone). The family has no pets but does sometimes have ants in the kitchen. Jim enjoys writing for the theater (a musical and a one-act play so far), camping, photography, and music.

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Mora Does More with Less

Mora Water Treatment Plant

A 2004 pilot study led to both a reduction in disinfection by-products as well as to a rehabilitated water treatment plant in Mora, a city of about 3,600 residents in east-central Minnesota, approximately 70 miles north of Minneapolis and 90 miles southwest of Duluth.

The treatment plant, first built in 1976 and recently rehabilitated, and the three wells that serve it, are just south of Lake Mora, which is apparently influencing the city’s water supply.  Organic material in the water had combined with chorine in the treatment to produce levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHM) and haloacetic acids (HAA5) that exceeded allowable standards in the early 2000s.

Mora Water Treatment Plant

The precursors to these by-products are normally associated with surface water, but some ground-water systems are also affected, particularly those that are influenced by nearby lakes and rivers.  The treatment plant and two of its wells are less than a quarter-mile from Lake Mora (the other is a few blocks farther south).

Mora water-wastewater superintendent Mike Kroon spoke of “a link to Lake Mora” with their wells, which are drilled into glacial drift and range in depth from 195 to 210 feet.  “The static level in the wells is within 13 feet of the lake level,” said Kroon, adding that Gail Haglund, a hydrogeologist with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has been exploring how much influence the lake has on the groundwater as part of the city’s wellhead protection plan.

“We are seeing a connection,” said Haglund, who has examined stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen as well as other water-chemistry parameters.  She said the plan includes quarterly sampling of the lake and wells over a one-year period.  From this information, she said, “We can get a better understanding of it.”

Mora Lake
Mora Lake, just north of the treatment plant and wells, is the subject of a study to determine its connection to the area's groundwater.

Regardless of the reasons for the organic matter in the water, the city had to take action to reduce its TTHM and HAA5 levels.  The pilot study by SEH, Inc. of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, led to a switch to chloramines as a disinfectant by adding ammonia to the free chlorine.  “The chlorine is tied up by the ammonia,” said Kroon, “and the chlorine can’t react to the organics.”

Mora found few utilities in the state that use chloramines, especially systems that are similar in type and size.  The city, without others to call on for advice and counsel, relied heavily on the expertise of John Thom of SEH, Inc. and MDH district engineer Dave Schultz, an expert on ammonia.  “We asked him a lot of questions,” Kroon said, “and he asked us a lot of questions.

“It took up three to four months to get it under control.  Every high-service pump operates at a different speed.  We had to get the chlorine dialed in and run one high-service pump for a longer time, so that they matched.”

“There is a balancing act to get the right ratio so that the speciation of chloramines is right,” said John Chlebeck, an engineer with SEH, Inc.  “Monochloramine is what’s wanted in the system.”

“You want your monochloramine to equal your total chlorine, so the two are real close together,” Kroon explained.  “Then you know you are doing all right.  Too much ammonia, and it will start growing out into the system, so it can increase algae growth.”

The chemical adjustment began in late 2005, and the levels of disinfectant by-products dropped dramatically.  The city has been well within compliance of the maximum levels allowed for TTHM and HAA5 ever since.

An Extreme Makeover
In tandem with the change in disinfection came a closer look at the condition of the water treatment plant, which had two gravity filters to reduce iron and manganese.

The filters were in need of attention, said Kroon.  “The metal was getting thin in one spot, and there were places it had eaten through.  We needed a new filter.”  A visit by the city’s utility commission provided the final impetus for a rehabilitation of the plant.  “They took one look and said, ‘We’ve seen enough,’” Kroon said.

The two gravity filters, each with a capacity of 750 gallons per minute (gpm), were replaced by a 1,000 gpm filter containing greensand and anthracite.  Kroon said they looked at the city’s water history and decided that a single filter was all that was needed.  The demand has been 250,000 to 350,000 gallons per day, and the city has plenty of storage with a 50,000 gallon clearwell and two towers—one that holds 500,000 gallons and the other 150,000. 

A revision in the sewer charge that went into effect in the last 10 years has promoted conservation.  “Residents now pay a sewer fee on watering use,” Kroon explained.  The city used to base the sewer charge on water usage in the winter months.  Now it is determined on the monthly meter reading, causing usage to drop.  “That was our plan to conserve water.  So people don’t water their yards around here that often.  It costs too much.”

The city also monitors individual water bills and contacts a customer if the usage spikes.  Someone from the utility investigates, and Kroon says often a leaky toilet is the culprit.  “Seldom does it leak for more than a month,” he points out since the customer usually fixes the problem quickly.

The plant makeover had to be done within the footprint of the existing building.  Going from two filters to one left the city with room to reconfigure all the space.  Chlebeck noted that the plant used to consist of a large open room with the filters, electrical panel, laboratory, bathroom, and the meter room.  Only the chlorine was separated from everything else.  “The room was really cluttered,” Chlebeck said, “and all the chemicals, with the exception of gas chlorine, were in there.”

Partition walls now isolate the filters from the electrical area and lab as well as chemical and mechanical rooms.  In addition, Kroon has an office rather than a desk amid chaos and clutter.

The total project took about nine months, and filters were off-line from October of 2010 to March of 2011.  Kroon said they continued to add chlorine, switching back to free chlorine, and fluoride but were without iron-and-manganese removal during this period.  Communication with residents and business owners paid off as they had few problems.

Operational costs have gone down since the plant was completed.  Kroon said the improved efficiency of the new pumps and controls have reduced electrical usage along with savings on chemicals. 

The $1.6 million cost for construction and engineering was financed with a below-market-rate loan through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund along with a raise in water rates over a five-year period to replenish funds from the utility’s capital reserves.

Filter at Mora Water Treatment Plant
Mora went from two filters to one with the renovation of its treatment plant.

The new plant went on line March 17, 2011.  Its masonry exterior fits with the surroundings of the industrial park.  The old plant was demolished and the wells sealed although the 100,000-gallon tower on the previous site remains.

The final cost of the project was $1,687,000 and financed with a slight increase in water rates as well as through a combined loan and grant package from the Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Revolving Fund and Public Facilities Authority in addition to a small city’s grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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Compliance Corner

By Mackenzie Hales, Minnesota Department of Health

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, MDH will start upholding this limit on January 1, 2014. After January 1, all samples received after 30 hours will be rejected and will need to be recollected.

Community systems have been receiving calls when samples are received over 30 hours after they were taken. 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 around outside of transport. Thanks for your cooperation!

Repeat Sampling Procedure—Monthly Systems
For monthly systems that have total coliform positives, please follow the proper repeat sampling procedure. For monthly systems that have a sample come back positive for total coliform and negative for E. Coli, the system must recollect samples 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 samples from all of the wells that were pumping at the time that 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 November report must be received by December 10 at the latest. 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. Electronic delivery is the best way to obtain confirmation. PDFs can be e-mailed to health.drinkingwateradvisory@state.mn.us.

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State Fair Water Taste Test

Map of Belgrade showing the old and new treatment plants
Bruce Wilson, with his family and an unidentified gate crasher to his right, accepts the trophy for International Falls as the winner of the Minnesota State Fair People’s Choice Water Taste Test. International Falls is on a roll, having come in second in the world-wide taste test at the American Water Works Association annual conference in Denver in June. Lino Lakes, International Falls, Maple Grove, and Eagan made the Final Four with the Falls and Maple Grove going to the finals. The taste test was held on stage in the Eco Experience building, next to a new water display unveiled this year by the Minnesota Department of Health (shown below).
Pressure filters at the new Belgrade water treatment plant

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Target Field Back 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.

Metro District Water Operators School

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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

The essence of skill is extracting meaning from everyday experience.

A successful person is the one who went ahead and did the thing the rest of us never quite got around to doing.

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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 06:44AM