Lab worker at MN health department got drinking water tests wrong


A Minnesota Department of Health worker has been accused of misconduct after officials found "improper laboratory practices" relating to studies of state drinking water supplies.

According to an MDH news release, the employee did not follow proper procedures to check whether instruments were working effectively and "avoided quality control steps" that may have "generated weaker, less defensible results."

His job was to test drinking water and untreated ground and surface water for levels of "volatile organic compounds" – such as gasoline and diesel products – they contain.

But the employee in question didn't take the steps required to ensure the equipment they were using was calibrated properly, meaning the results of 2,200 tests between May 2013 and May 2015 may have been inaccurate.

The health department said the improper work was limited to this one employee and did not "present an immediate and significant public risk."

An MDH spokesman told BringMeTheNews that the tests haven't been skewed one way or the other, rather that it is likely it provided a mixture of erroneous results. This means contaminant levels could either be higher or lower than the employee's initial results showed.

The MDH however will have to re-analyze all of the tests in question, and will focus first on the "top-priority" groups, which includes the public water supply systems of Edina, St. Louis Park, Spring Park, Kasota and Brooklyn Center.

Also affected are several private drinking wells in Baytown Townships and adjacent areas of Washington County, and private wells near the Lindala Sanitary Landfill site in Wright County.

The employee has been removed from lab duties by the MDH and is the subject of a separate HR investigation, the results of which are expected to be released next month.

The MDH has said it will be tightening up its own practices in future to prevent future misconduct.

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