News release: Safe Drinking Water Week proclaimed by Gov. Dayton as health department releases annual report of drinking water in Minnesota

News Release
May 7, 2012
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Safe Drinking Water Week proclaimed by Gov. Dayton as health department releases annual report of drinking water in Minnesota

Vast majority of public water systems meet federal, state requirements

Gov. Mark Dayton declared May 6-12 Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota as water professionals and the communities they serve join together to recognize the vital role water plays in people’s daily lives.

The governor also recognized the Minnesota cities of Moorhead, Rochester, St. Martin, and Verndale for their leadership activities in source water protection efforts. These cities were recognized for serving as an example to other communities of how local involvement by land owners, community residents, and government can lead to innovative and effective implementation of source water protection efforts. These activities improve the likelihood drinking water sources will not be adversely affected either by potential sources of contamination or by the unwise use of water resources.

In his proclamation, the governor said, “Protecting our sources of drinking water from contamination or overuse is the first step in ensuring a safe water supply. Minnesotans depend on an adequate supply of safe drinking water for their health, quality of life, and economic viability.”

In conjunction with Safe Drinking Water Week, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released its annual drinking water report. Results of monitoring by MDH engineers and public health sanitarians indicate that drinking water is generally in good shape in Minnesota’s 961 community water supply systems. Although some problems have been revealed during routine monitoring and some areas of the state face challenges with quality and quantity issues as well as dealing with aging infrastructure, the vast majority of community water systems have met all the regulations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Minnesota’s public water supply systems are tested on a regular basis for bacteria, nitrate and other inorganic chemicals, radiological elements, and up to 118 different industrial chemicals and pesticides. The MDH annual report is based on the results of monitoring under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for the past year.

The water supply systems that are exceeding the standards have developed compliance agreements with MDH as they remedy the situation and have been in regular contact with their residents regarding the situation.

“People who get their drinking water from a public water source can be assured that it is tested more thoroughly and regulated more closely than water from any other source,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. “On those occasions when a problem is detected, the health department works with the water system to make sure corrective actions are taken. These actions always include notification of the residents affected by the problem.”

The drinking water annual report includes test results for 726 city water systems throughout the state. Also included were 235 non-municipal systems that provide drinking water to people in their place of residence—in locations such as manufactured home parks, apartment buildings, housing subdivisions, colleges, hospitals, prisons, and child care facilities.

Among the other findings in the report:

  • During 2011, MDH conducted 23,000 tests for pesticides and industrial contaminants in Minnesota’s 961 community water systems. No systems violated drinking water standards for these contaminants.
  • Detectable levels of coliform bacteria were found in 15 community water systems, including 12 municipal systems. While not all coliform bacteria cause illness, they provide an indicator of possible contamination in the system. Systems with coliform problems are routinely disinfected, flushed, and retested to ensure that the contamination is gone before being returned to normal service. The process typically takes less than a week. The municipal systems that tested positive for bacterial contamination were Aitkin, Calumet, Ceylon, Floodwood, Foley, Hadley, Johnson, Keewatin, Lake Elmo, St. Martin, Watson, and Winton. All of the residents served by the affected systems were informed of the situation at the time it occurred.
  • One municipal system, Leota, exceeded the standard for nitrate in 2011. The city is considering options and has notified its citizens of the situation.
  • While several cities in Minnesota continue to wrestle with arsenic in their groundwater, the vast majority of municipal drinking water systems in the state report few problems. By the end of 2011, 10 community water systems, including 8 municipal systems, still exceeded the standard for arsenic. The affected municipal systems are Big Falls, Climax, Herman, Lowry, Oak Grove-Lake George, Otisco, Stewart, and Wendell. These systems in exceedance are working with MDH to come into compliance and are also communicating regularly with their residents about the situation.
  • Eleven community water systems—including 10 municipal systems—exceeded the standard for radium 226 and 228 at the end of 2011. The affected municipal systems are Amboy, Claremont, Hinckley, Lanesboro, Lewiston, Medford, New Germany, Otsego, Rushford Village, and Stacy. No restrictions were placed on water consumption although residents were notified of the situation. Residents were told that this was not an emergency situation and were advised to consult with their doctors if they have any special concerns. Each of these systems has either started to make infrastructure changes or is studying alternatives to meet the maximum contaminant level.
  • No community water systems exceeded the standard for inorganic chemicals in 2011.
  • One municipal water system, St. Augusta, exceeded the standard for disinfection by-products in 2011. The city notified residents of the situation.

The Emerging Issues section of the report includes the Minnesota Department of Health’s focus on backflow prevention. Backflow can result in contaminants mixing with potable water, and the department has been stepping up efforts to educate water operators, property owners, and citizens about problems associated with backflow and with cross connections, which are potential sources of backflow.

The report also highlights four Minnesota cities, Moorhead, Verndale, Rochester, and St. Martin, that were recognized as Source Water Protection Leadership Communities for serving as an example to other communities of how local involvement by landowners, residents, and government can lead to innovative and effective implementation of source water protection efforts. These cities received certificates from Governor Dayton.

It also includes:

  • outcomes and measures of money invested from the Clean Water
  • a summary of drinking water standards that were reviewed or revised
  • information about Liquid Assets Minnesota, a one-hour documentary on drinking water, wastewater, and storm water, produced with the involvement of MDH and other organizations

The 2011 report and those from previous years are available online at

The Safe Drinking Water Week proclamation is available at [expired link].


For more information, contact:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Stew Thornley
Drinking Water Protection