Drinking Water Protection: Waterline, Spring 2016 - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Waterline: Spring 2016

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Stew Thornley

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Flint: Could It Happen Here?

Water systems have been involved in monitoring water within households since the implementation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule in the early 1990s.

Lead is unusual among waterborne contaminants in that it is rarely present in water at its source.  Instead, it works its way into water on the way to people’s faucets through the home.  Lead in a water system’s distribution pipes can dissolve into the water as it passes through.  Lead service lines, connecting water mains to people’s houses, is another source.  Inside the home, lead pipes and solder may contribute to lead contamination, especially since water often sits idle in these pipes while families are asleep or away from home at work and school.

While Minnesota’s communities have had relatively few issues with lead contamination, a number of U.S. cities have had prominent lead contamination problems in recent years. 

Problems Elsewhere

A change in chemical treatment had a major effect in Washington, D. C., in the early 2000s, causing corrosion in pipes and the subsequent discovery of lead levels in the city residents' water that was at least 83 times higher than the action level of 15 parts per billion.  The issue was addressed with corrosion-control treatments to the water to prevent the leaching of lead in water from mains and fixtures, although problems have continued in the city.

In 2014 the city of Flint, Michigan, temporarily switched its water source from Lake Huron, supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, to the Flint River, an inland source that can cause greater challenges for treating water than water that is from the Great Lakes.  Flint treated the river water to make it safe, but the water reaching people’s homes was corrosive.  Water that’s corrosive can allow water in lead service lines—which connect water mains to household plumbing—to absorb lead from the lead service lines and plumbing. The result can be significantly higher levels of lead in the water that people drink. 

The Situation in Minnesota

In Minnesota, if a water system goes to a different source of water, even a new well, Minnesota Department of Health engineers will review the plans for treating the water and also examine corrosion-control methods that could be necessary to ensure that the water does not absorb materials such as lead and copper from pipes in the distribution system.

To avoid unintended consequences from source or treatment changes, any such changes by a water system require review and approval from the Minnesota Department of Health before they take effect; often, pilot studies are required as part of the review and approval.  A new source of water and/or treatment change also brings about changes in the monitoring frequency required for the system for examining lead levels in the water.

MDH engineers also review water quality reports, which follow each round of sampling by a system.  Based on these reports, engineers may issue recommendations to address any possibility that the water has the potential to absorb materials, which could include lead, from service lines and household plumbing.

In addition, MDH has a statewide system for laboratories to report blood-lead levels in patients; such reporting could trigger an immediate visit from a nurse.  Lead can come from many sources besides water, and the biggest threat in Minnesota continues to be the nearly one million homes in the state that contain lead paint.

Minnesota’s service connection fee (collected by water systems from customers and passed on to the Minnesota Department of Health) assists in MDH’s ability to promptly respond to drinking water quality issues across the state.  The Health Department is able to see the sampling results before the water systems do; if there is a problem, MDH notifies the system, which can quickly begin corrective actions.  Many states do it the opposite way: testing and data collection are done locally and reported to the state.  The method in Minnesota allows for another early-warning system for contaminants in drinking water.

Any system in exceedance of the action level for lead must, among its corrective actions, provide ongoing public education to its customers. 

More information on precautions:

Let it run . . . and get the lead out! (English)

Let it run . . . and get the lead out! (Hmong)

Let it run . . . and get the lead out! (Spanish)

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2016 Metro School

Registrations to be Capped at 240

The Metro District of the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Minnesota Department of Health will hold its 2016 school Tuesday to Thursday, April 5 to 7 at the Ramada Plaza in northeast Minneapolis.

The school has been alternating between the Ramada Mall of America (formerly the Thunderbird) in Bloomington and the Ramada Plaza in northeast Minneapolis. However, the Ramada Plaza is limited in size; as a result, the 2016 school will be limited to the first 240 people to register. Please register early. The Metro District will no longer hold its annual training at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis after 2016.

Advanced Treatment Technologies Workshop Scheduled for Day before Metro School

In advance of the Metro District School, Minnesota American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Minnesota Department of Health will hold an all-day Advanced Treatment Technologies Workshop at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis on Monday, April 4, the day before the Metro School begins. The training is geared toward operators in lime-softening plants and will also be useful for those preparing for the Class A or B exams. Topics for the workshop are lime softening, coagulation/flocculation, treatment plant instrumentation, chlorine safety, advanced treatment technology pilot studies, and sanitary surveys of treatment plants. Participants will receive six credit hours. The workshop is $60 ($70 after March 21).

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Cook Mayor and Council Members Work for Free to Keep Water Rates from Rising

Cook Water TowerThe Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported in its November 29, 2015 edition that the mayor and all four city councilors in the northern Minnesota town of Cook have agreed to forego their salaries in 2016 rather than have the city raise its water rates.

Cook has constructed a new plant and water tower and put in water and sewer lines in recent years. Maintenance supervisor Bud Ranta said they had 27 main breaks in the winter before the new lines and haven’t had one since. The city also built a new plant (iron removal with horizontal sand filters, the same as the old plant) when it relocated two wells. Much of the work was covered by grants from U. S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. “We’re proud of the funds we’ve secured,” said Ranta. “We’re ahead of most other cities in Minnesota.

“We’ve done a lot of work in this town.”

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Governor Dayton Calls for Water Quality Summit

Governor Dayton and Commissioner EhlingerContinuing his mission to protect Minnesota waters, Governor Mark Dayton announced he will convene a water quality summit.

Last spring Dayton held a press conference with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger (shown to the right)to introduce the department’s drinking water annual report (PDF), which contained a special section on the impact of nitrate on Minnesota waters. Dayton referred to the report’s findings to call for agricultural best management practices, including buffer strips near streams.

His announcement of the water quality summit came at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Farm Bureau last November 21. A descendant of dairy farmers in southwestern Hennepin County, Dayton referred to his dad, Bruce Dayton, who had recently died and quoted the philosophy that had been passed on to him: “Stewardship is a profound responsibility of each of us.”

Dayton told the group he believes farmers are excellent stewards of their farmlands, adding, “Many may not fully understand the extent that farming practices, as well as other practices, affect not only your lands but the waters that run along those lands and underneath those lands. “Modern farming practices, especially the use of nitrogen fertilizers—both chemical and animal manure—are among the contributors to the serious and in some areas critical water quality problems that we face.”

Dayton said some cities are spending millions of dollars for water treatment systems. At the press conference with the governor last spring, Ehlinger called treatment systems “an expensive last resort” and recommended emphasis on strong source water protection efforts as a better means of keeping water safe to drink.

At the farm bureau meeting, Dayton also referred to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study that warned of high levels of nitrate and bacteria in southwestern Minnesota waterways. He told the group, “To focus public attention on this serious problem and the urgency to face up to it, and to continue the dialogue on the steps we must take to deal with it, I will convene a Minnesota water quality summit next February.

“It’s everyone’s challenge and everyone’s responsibility. If we work together, our children and grandchildren can tell us that we, too, were wise stewards of the land and water they inherited from us.”

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Plan Review Submittal Guidance

By David Weum, Minnesota Department of Health engineer
The Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) plan review authority comes from Minnesota Rule 4720.0010 which can be paraphrased by: “no system of public water supply shall be installed, materially altered, or extended until complete plans and specifications with any additional required information are submitted to and approved by the Department of Health.” To clarify this broad statement, the table below shows which items need review and when review is not required.

Field review has been allowed as an option in some cases. If the field review option is used, it is at the discretion of the system’s MDH district engineer, who will then review the work on-site.

Most municipal drinking water projects are required to be submitted by a licensed professional engineer registered in Minnesota. Some specific projects are allowed to be submitted by other representatives, but they must be submitted by the licensed contractor performing the work, the owner, or a professional engineer. Non-municipal public water suppliers are encouraged to use the services of professional engineers but are not required to do so.

Failure to submit plans for review will results in enforcement action.

Symbol Description
x1 Plans must be submitted by a professional engineer
x2 Plans may be submitted by the licensed contractor performing the work, owner, or professional engineer
x3 The work must be replacing like component with like component (size, shape, type) 


Community Water Supply Wells
Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
Construct New Community Water Supply Well x1    
Wellhead completion x1    
Replace Pump with Exact Same Pump     x3
Replace  vertical turbine pump with submersible pump x1    
Replace  submersible pump with vertical turbine pump x1    
VFD Installation     x
Modify Well Casing (either extend or shorten) x2    
Install a New Well Casing in an existing well x2    
Basic Well Rehabilitation (includes pulling pump, replacing screen, acid treatment, etc.)     x
Well Sealing     x


Surface Water Intake Structures
Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
Modifying Surface Water Intake Structures x1    
Replace surface water intake pump     x
Surface water intake circulation/aeration     x
Intake chemical treatment (algicide, etc.) x2    


Treatment Plants & Well Pumphouses
Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
Filter rehabilitation (structural modifications or interior coating) x1    
Replacing  filter media with exact same media     x3
Replacing filter media with different media x1    
New chemical addition (includes temporary chemicals) x2    
Replacing or adding a chlorine cabinet   x2  
Emergency chemical addition (for bacti issues only)   x2  
Change to Similar Chemical Type (i.e. KMnO4 to NaMnO4)   x2  
Adding gas chlorine inside of building x1    
Converting gas chlorine to sodium hypochlorite x2    
Moving a chemical injection point to a new location   x2  
Eye wash addition x2    
Emergency Electrical Generator Addition x2    
Replacement of existing chemical feed equip (tank, pumps, tubing, etc.)     x3
Replace high service pump (with exact same pump)     x3
Replace high service vertical turbine pump with submersible pump x2    
Replace high service submersible pump with vertical turbine pump x2    
Installation of Water Monitoring Equipment   x2  
Changing pipe configuration or size x1    
Replacing Existing Piping with Same Size Pipe     x3
New Treatment Plant x1    
New Pumphouse/Wellhouse x1    


Drinking Water Storage
Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
Painting /Coating Wet Interior x1    
Rehabilitation of Storage Facilities x1    
New Storage Tower/Standpipe/Reservoir x1    
Chemical feed at storage x2    
Mixing system addition x2    
Coating exterior only (without structural modifications)     x
Adding an Emergency Electrical Generator for Cell Phone Use  x2    


Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
New Watermain Installation (>100 ft) x1    
Watermain Replacement (> 100 ft) x1    
Raw Water Transmission Main Installation (> 100 ft) x1    
Hydrant and/or Valve Replacement only     x
Automatic Flushing Devices x2    


Booster Stations
Types of Projects Plan Review Required Plan Review Required with District Engineer Field Approval Allowed Plan Review Not Required
Changing pipe configuration of size x1    
New booster station x1    
Replace booster pump with exact same pump     x3
Replace submersible booster pump with vertical turbine pump x2    
Replace vertical turbine booster pump with submersible pump x2    
Emergency generator addition (contact MDH prior to installation)   x2  

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Rochester Public Utilities Solves Messy Problem in Economical and Environmentally Friendly Way

Turkey vultures on Rochester water tower

Turkey vultures found a comfortable perch in Rochester a few years ago—atop the city’s Apache water tower. Todd Osweiler, the coordinator of environmental and regulatory affairs for Rochester Public Utilities, pointed out the obvious problem created by the squatters: “Lots of cleaning.” The mess moved to the utility’s Baihly tower, up the hill from Apache, when the latter was taken out of service for painting. That job complete, the city found that the turkey vultures not only returned to the Apache tower but also kept their quarters at Baihly.

Tired of bird excrement, the utility looked for ways to evict the freeloaders. A radio blaring Laser 101.7’s classical rock got the vultures to move, but only for a short time. “They’re smart birds,” said Osweiler. “They figured out there was nothing to harm them.” An internet search produced other ideas, but not all were legal, including the hanging of a dead turkey vulture on the towers since it would require getting a dead turkey vulture, which is a protected migratory bird.

Water operations manager Cary Johnson said they could have gotten stuffed artificial turkey vultures, at a cost of $800 each. Johnson balked at the price as well as the thought of two water towers permanently adorned by a fake dead bird. Other solutions offered on-line were just as expensive.

Finally, one of the utility’s operators tried an inflatable Christmas decoration, and the results were effective. Johnson then ordered two air dancers, similar to those used for car dealers to attract attention, for $200 each. No more turkey vultures.

“Pretty cheap solution,” said Johnson, happy that their water towers are now poop-free.

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Bacteriological Laboratory Assignment Update (Late Breaking News)

The Winter 2015-2016 issue of the Waterline included notice that, beginning January 1, 2016, community public water systems (PWSs) serving fewer than 1,000 people will be assigned the Minnesota Department of Health Public Health Laboratory (PHL) in St. Paul for quarterly bacteriological analyses.

Please note there has been a very late change to this plan. All contract laboratories assignments will remain the same as in 2015 except one: Pace Analytical Services – Minneapolis. PWSs that sent samples to Pace Analytical Services – Minneapolis in 2015 will be assigned the MDH PHL in 2016. A cover letter describing these assignments (including laboratory names) was included with sample supply kits shipped to each community PWS. In addition, a contact phone number was included in the cover letters.

As before, PWSs are free to choose to use (and pay for) a private, certified laboratory instead of their MDH-assigned laboratory. In those cases, the chosen labs must have the ability to report results electronically to MDH.

Finally, shipping costs will continue to be the responsibilities of PWSs. Overnight shipping will be necessary to ensure samples arrive at any laboratory within 24 hours of sample collection so they can be analyzed within the required 30-hour hold time. In anticipation of increased risks of sample rejection, small (population less than 1,000) community PWSs are encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Determine a shipping method that can deliver samples to the assigned laboratory within 30 hours.
  • Prepare for occasional replacement samples in schedules and budgets.

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Where Are They Now?

Nick Bockwinkel
Water operator schools around the state have been blessed with appearances from some of the top local sports stars. The 1993 Metro school featured former world heavyweight wrestling champion Nick Bockwinkel (above). Ten years later, Baron Von Raschke (the good-looking one in the photo below) was the guest speaker. The Baron still lives in the state, but Nick Bockwinkel died November 14, 2015.
Baron Von Raschke (right) with George Schire
St. John’s University football coach John Gagliardi (below) gave a motivational speech to the Central District operators in 1993. Gags, who began at St. John’s in 1953, still had nearly another 20 years worth of coaching in him. He retired after the 2012 season, having won four national championships and having been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The day before his speech to the water operators, the award for the most outstanding Division III college football player had been renamed the Gagliardi Award.
John Gagliardi

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What's New with Lewis & Clark

Pipe installation in Luverne

Lewis and Clark the explorers are dead and have been for a long time.

The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, however, is as alive as ever and continuing its progress through a tri-state area.

Conceived in 1988 as a way of serving water-challenged areas in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota, the project takes water from beneath the Missouri River at Vermillion, South Dakota, to communities as far as 60 miles away. The project will serve approximately 300,000 people when it is completed.

The pipes crossed into Minnesota last May and began serving Rock County Rural Water District, the first project partner in the state to receive water.

Luverne will become the next after the completion of an 18-mile section of 24-inch pipe (shown above), installed by Carstensen Contracting of Pipestone, Minnesota. Robert L. Carr Company of Marshall, Minnesota, constructed meter buildings in Luverne (below) as well as in Magnolia.

In December the Lewis & Clark board of directors awarded another contract, this one for $5.2 million, to Carsentensen Contracting for the segment of pipe between Luverne and Magnolia. Executive director Troy Larson said the Carstensen bid was about 30 percent less than what was budgeted.

This section of pipe is expected to begin this spring and be completed by the end of the year. Magnolia is a connection point for both Rock County Rural Water District and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water System.

Construction of meter house in Luverne

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Smithsonian Exhibit on Water Coming to Minnesota

During 2016 and 2017 the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, focusing on drinking water, is coming to six sites in Minnesota: Red Wing, New London-Spicer, Lonsdale, Sandstone-Pine City, Detroit Lakes, and St. Peter.

Minnesota was one of five states selected by the Smithsonian Institution to launch these traveling exhibits. The local partners will host the exhibit for six weeks at a time starting this June and extending to April of 2017.

The program is led by the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the center’s Jennifer Tonko says, “What really makes us special, at least from the Smithsonian’s perspective, is the broad group of partners who are part of the project.” The partners include the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association, and the Minnesota Historical Society.

The host communities will embark on an exploration of water and their identity, history, and culture. These communities will tell their local water stories and envision the future of water through companion exhibitions, community events, and educational programming intended to engage thousands of Minnesotans.

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Stuff Sought for Minnesota AWWA Museum

In conjunction with its 100th anniversary, the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association (AWWA) will feature a water museum at its annual conference in Duluth this September.

The section is seeking such items as old hydrants, pumps, valves, meters, pipes (including wooden ones), maps, plans, photos, and equipment as well as historic manuals.

Historic Manual

To contribute, contact Steve Schneider with a description, including dimensions and weight, a photo, and information of its significance.

Seasoned or retired water professionals are invited to help at the conference as curators. Regardless of seasoning, interested pros may contact Carol Kaszynski.

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Accidental Chlorine Release Emergency Notifications

By Jon Groethe, Minnesota Department of Health

A critical piece of pre-planning for any water system emergency is having a complete list of emergency contact notifications readily available to you. Certain emergency notifications must be made immediately, being governed by strength of statute or historic legislative policy. Notifications that are required at the onset of an accidental chlorine release fall within that category.

The purpose of this article is to share with you three important and basic notifications that must be made when you are facing a chlorine release at your water plant, as well as the time frame in which they are expected to be completed. This article is not meant to address operations or all post-incident communications that take place.

For chlorine, the reportable quantity (RQ) is defined by two federal statutes (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act) as being a release of 10 pounds or greater occurring in a 24-hour time window.

If you believe you have exceeded this amount but are unsure of the exact amount that has been released, it is better to go ahead and make the necessary notifications and establish a firm quantity later. There are no penalties associated with over-reporting.

Three immediate emergency notification calls must then be made. The first call is made at the local level of government (Emergency 911), which alerts local emergency responders. The second notification call occurs at the state level of government. This is the call you will make to the Minnesota State Duty Officer (800-422-0798). The duty officer will share information you have provided among state agencies having emergency response roles through both phone calls and email transmissions. On-call personnel at various state and local agencies will coordinate a field response based on regional resources. The third call occurs at the federal level.

This is the notification call you will make to the National Response Center (1-800-424-8802). This notification is equally critical because a hazardous chemical release may bear impacts with federal considerations (state and national borders, an immediate need for deployment of federal resources, etc.).

If you have leaked and are absolutely certain that the amount released is less than the RQ, you are still required to make a single call to the Minnesota State Duty Officer to satisfy Minnesota Statute 115.061 (Duty to Notify). But if you’re not sure of the amount released, you need to go ahead and make all three calls. Remember: if in doubt, report.

What is the allowable time-frame in which all three notification calls need to be made? Superfund legislative history states that ordinarily “delays in making the required notifications should not exceed 15 minutes after the person in charge has knowledge of the release. Immediate notice requires shorter delays whenever practicable.” Therefore, the time frame that would be considered allowable and prompt is 15 minutes. All three notification calls should be completed consecutively, one following another. Although there may be competing priorities around you, making these notifications should be prioritized and accomplished.

An important note: The person in charge of the utility must always be the one directly making the emergency notification calls. This requirement is explicitly stated in the Federal Register, Part 302.69. Remember, as the person in charge, you cannot delegate notification calls to others. You must always personally notify, even when a notification call has previously been made by your local fire chief.

Within 30 days, an emergency release follow-up report must be submitted to Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The Emergency Release Follow-up Report can be downloaded using a link located on the DPS website under Resources.

The completed report should be emailed directly to Steve Tomlyanovich at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

To boil all of this down, there are three calls the person in charge must make during an accidental chlorine release, and they correspond to the three levels of government—local, state and federal. Once you have knowledge that a reportable release has occurred, you then have a 15-minute window to make all three calls. Completion of these actions will go a long ways toward keeping your utility on course relative to prevailing emergency notification requirements.

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Cool Web Sites

At the Minnesota Water Research Digital Library, you can find publications ranging from Glacial Sediment Causing Regional-Scale Elevated Arsenic in Drinking Water to the 197th St Ravine Feasibility Study for the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District.

The web site for 10 States Standards has manuals on water, wastewater, and swimming pools.

More Cool Sites.

Image of a spider webSummary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Herb Alpert: A Taste of Honey

Alcor Life Extension Foundation


Where Your Favourite Bottled Water Comes From

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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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Translate This

A red fruit every 24 hours wards off the physician..


Operator training sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota AWWA will be held in several locations this spring.

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Updated Tuesday, 23-Jul-2019 14:25:14 CDT