The latest state Health Department report finds Minnesota’s public drinking water supplies are generally in good shape, although there are problems in a small number of communities. Coliform bacteria were found in 31 systems, and the Health Department’s Stew Thornley says, “This is probably typical in a year, and coliform bacteria itself is not harmful. It’s just an indicator that some things could be in there.” Thornley says if further testing detects disease-causing organisms, boil orders or even “don’t use” orders could be issued. For information on water quality in your community, contact your city hall.
The report found arsenic levels exceeding state standards in seven Minnesota community water systems and radium in three systems, but officials say they are not emergency situations and are working with local governments to correct it. Six community water systems exceeded state limits for lead. Thornley says because lead often comes from old pipes in people’s homes, they test for it there, rather than in the distribution system. He says, “If more than 10 percent of those homes exceed the action level that’s set for lead, then the entire system is considered to be in exceedance and has to take corrective action.”
More on the lead problem in this interview with state Health Commissioner, Dr. Ed Ehlinger: