Minnesota's drinking water concerns and what's being done to prevent a Flint-like crisis

Do Minnesotans have to worry about unsafe drinking water?
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Could it happen here?

That's the theme of this year's state drinking water report by the Minnesota Department of Health

It looked at various water crises that have happened around the U.S. recently – like high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, and nitrates in Des Moines, Iowa – and what Minnesota's doing to prevent similar disasters. 

"As threats to our water intensify, we can’t afford to get complacent,” said MDH Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. “Aging infrastructure, increasing levels of contaminants and new knowledge about what is in our water threaten our water quality and quantity.”

Lead contamination

In 2014, Flint switched its water source which ultimately led to dangerous levels of lead in the water.

According to the report, Minnesota takes extra steps to make sure something like that wouldn't happen here. Like the state Department of Health would have to review and approve any water source changes. 

Public water systems also have to periodically sample water in people’s homes. Then if more than 10 percent of the samples have unsafe lead levels, the system must take action to reduce lead levels.

In 2016, six community systems (0.6 percent) exceeded the lead action level. Officials are currently looking into ways fix that.

You can read all about the dangers of lead in drinking water here.

Nitrate levels

Our neighbor to the south has been struggling with dangerous nitrate levels

And according to the MDH's report, it's a rising issue in Minnesota too. Test results show a trend of increasing nitrate levels in public and private water supplies in parts of the state.

However, only one community system exceeded the standard for nitrate in 2016. According to the report, the system made adjustments and meets the drinking water standard again.

You can read about the dangers of nitrates in drinking water here.

Other contaminants

The report looked at other concerns Minnesota is facing or may face in the future regarding water quality. 

Like 31 community systems (3.2 percent) had issues with bacterial contamination last year. However, they were all disinfected and flushed – so that's all back up to standard. 

And six community water systems exceeded the standard for arsenic in 2016. But experts said levels weren't high enough to be of immediate concern. Those systems are currently working to get back into compliance. 

Dayton's water quality town halls

Gov. Mark Dayton has announced he'll be going around the state having town hall meetings to talk about water quality. There will be 10 spanning from late July to early October. 

It's part of the governor's “25 by 25” Water Quality goal proposal he announced earlier this year. He wants to improve Minnesota’s water quality 25 percent by 2025.

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