News release: Governor recognizes communities for source water protection efforts

News Release
May 6, 2013

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Governor recognizes communities for source water protection efforts

Annual drinking water report says public water systems in good shape in Minnesota

Declaring May 5-11 as Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton has recognized the Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group and the cities of Cold Spring, Detroit Lakes, and Shakopee for their leading efforts to protect the sources of drinking water in their areas.

These cities serve as examples 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. Their activities improve the likelihood that drinking water sources will not be adversely affected either by potential sources of contamination or by the unwise use of water resources. The cities received certificates from Governor Dayton.

In conjunction with Safe Drinking Water Week, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today released its annual report on the status of drinking water in the state. The results of monitoring for the past year revealed only rare contamination problems in Minnesota’s 961 community water systems. Water samples from those systems were subjected to nearly 23,000 separate tests for more than 100 potential contaminants. The vast majority of community water systems have met all the requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

None of the systems exceeded current federal or state standards for pesticides or industrial contaminants. Bacterial contamination was detected in only nine municipal systems. Contamination problems in those systems were quickly resolved, and normal water service was restored in the affected communities, typically within a week.

The report includes test results for 730 city water systems throughout the state. Also included were 231 nonmunicipal 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 highlights of the report:

  • Detectable levels of coliform bacteria were found in nine community water systems, including eight 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.
  • 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 2012, 10 community water systems, including eight municipal systems, still exceeded the standard for arsenic. These systems in exceedance are working with MDH to come into compliance and are also communicating regularly with their residents about the situation.
  • Nine community water systems—including eight municipal systems—exceeded the standard for radium 226 and 228 at the end of 2012. 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 2012.
  • No community water systems exceeded the standard for disinfection by-products in 2012. 

“Safe drinking water is no accident,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. “Many dedicated professionals work together to treat and test the water and maintain the infrastructure. Because of their work, we can have confidence in the quality of the water that comes out of our taps.”
Everyone, however, plays a role in keeping water safe, Ehlinger noted. “We all need to be involved in helping to protect our drinking water sources from contamination.”

The results and other information are in a revamped annual report, which MDH has issued since 1995. The report for 2012 highlights additional areas, such as success stories related to source water protection and water treatment around the state, and has information about grants that have been awarded, plan review that is performed for new and renovated infrastructure, and training and certification for water operators in Minnesota.

As part of Safe Drinking Water Week, MDH partnered with H2O for Life, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Bongard Corporation/Elkay, and the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association on a drinking water poster contest within Minnesota schools. The partnership provided grants to pay for bottle-filling stations in four schools that had winning entries. The four schools were Bluffview Montessori in Winona, Salem Hills School in Inver Grove Heights, Highview Middle School in New Brighton and Burnsville Senior High School.

The 2012 report is available online at

Reports from previous years back to 1995 are online at

Media inquiries:
Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Stew Thornley
Drinking Water Protection