Sept. 20, 2023
Lab analyses find no health concerns in drinking water samples from Stillwater Prison
MDH report recommends action steps for DOC to maximize facility water quality
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today provided a report to the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) summarizing the results of recent analytical testing of water samples collected from the Stillwater Prison. The analysis, which is available at the department’s Drinking Water Protection website, did not find indications of a health risk from the drinking water. The report does provide recommended actions to address concerns about the appearance of some of the non-drinking water samples.
While past testing of the water heading into the Stillwater facility consistently found no problems, Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell asked MDH to examine the water coming out of faucets and other end points in the facility. Using Safe Drinking Water Act sample collection procedures and protocols, MDH staff collected water from sample points throughout the Stillwater facility. Samples were taken from many locations, including from cells from every block, common areas, kitchen, recreational areas and other areas indoors and outside. Samples also included water from the well and processed water after treatment but before entering the facility.
The MDH Public Health Laboratory conducted 465 tests on the samples, looking for bacteria, iron, manganese, lead, copper and total suspended solids. In addition, the lab analyzed a subset of samples for organic chemicals such as pesticides.
“The good news is that treated water coming into the facility and at all sampled locations meets federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards,” MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said. “However, we did note some instances of discolored water, build-up of minerals from water on fixtures and iron staining on some sinks. We’re recommending a series of actions for DOC that should help address these issues.”
According to Huff, health officials observed discolored water at some locations during sampling – primarily at hot water taps. While these hot water taps are not considered a drinking water source, some are used by incarcerated people and staff for showering and other uses. In response and as part of the overall report, MDH provided a series of technical recommendations for DOC to implement. These include:
- Developing and following a written water management plan to maintain water quality within the facility.
- Cleaning fixtures and aerators.
- Conducting systematic, facility-wide flushing.
- Having a licensed plumber conduct an inspection and then implementing any recommended actions from that inspection.
- Informing incarcerated people and staff about the sampling results and instructing them to use only cold water for drinking.
Community drinking water systems, including those providing water for large facilities such as schools, office complexes and prisons, have several levels of water safety built in. First, public health officials and system operators test the quality of the water going from the municipal source or well to make sure it does not have quality concerns as it enters the facility. The public water systems also are required to conduct periodic testing of the water coming out of their building pipes for some key contaminants, such as bacteria and lead. Building and facility managers are provided with recommendations to implement water management plans to ensure good water quality on their premises.
Past annual water quality reports can be obtained from the online Consumer Confidence Report.