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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Tower and Soudan water supplies both meet safe drinking water standards

Jodi Summit
Posted 5/24/23

REGIONAL- A new drinking water report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows that while some areas of the state face challenges including quantity, quality and aging infrastructure, the …

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Tower and Soudan water supplies both meet safe drinking water standards


REGIONAL- A new drinking water report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows that while some areas of the state face challenges including quantity, quality and aging infrastructure, the vast majority of public water systems have met all the regulations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The report also shows nearly 98-percent of Minnesotans who get their drinking water from a community public water system received water that met all federal health-based standards throughout the year.
Reports for both Tower and Breitung showed none of the monitored water quality areas in violation of state standards. Average test levels for trihalomethane (THM), and haloacetic acids (HAA5), byproducts of the water purification process which have triggered some issues in previous years, came in below the EPA limit (maximum contaminant limit or MCL), but in some of the reported testing, were nearing the action level. Late in the year, the system had a haloacetic (HAA5) acid level (64 ppb vs. MCL of 60 ppb) that was higher than the maximum contaminant level, but the report noted that since there is a natural variability in sampling results, and since this is not considered an acute contaminant, four quarterly sample results were used to determine if the system was compliant, which it was. The sampling this year will continue to monitor these contaminants. Measured rates are lower than rates found in 2021, which did exceed MCL.
The Tower-Breitung Wastewater Board is planning to add an updated filtration system to the water treatment system to help remove organic matter, reduce the need for higher levels of disinfection, and filter out these contaminants. Yet, the project hasn’t been started because project construction costs have risen well above the grant funding available for the project, so more requests for funding are being made. The estimated cost for the project has risen to $5.5 million.
The Tower-Breitung Wastewater Board had also been working to remove beaver dams in the area of the wells, as well as to annually trap beavers living near the wells. After the beaver ponds were removed, the water testing for THM and HAA5 has been trending lower.
Lead and copper levels, which typically come from the corrosion of household plumbing, ranged from .28 to .62 parts per billion for lead (ppb), and .24-.54 ppb for copper, both significantly lower than the action levels of 15 ppb for lead and 1.5 ppb for copper.
New this year was testing for PFAS chemicals.
The Minnesota Department of Health has been studying the potential health impacts of PFAS chemicals in groundwater since 2002. PFAS are a family of manmade chemicals that have been widely used in consumer products for decades, but do not breakdown in the environment. They are used in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpet and fabrics, coatings on some food packaging like microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers, a component of fire-fighting foam, and in some consumer products that are stain and/or water resistant, in some cosmetics, and in some cleaning products.
These tests were done on a voluntary basis because the wastewater board wanted to see if the new filtration plant needed to address PFAS as well. Samples taken from the Breitung-Tower water system last August showed one type of PFAS chemical, PFBA, at .0007 ppb, well under the Minnesota Department of Health’s value of 7 ppb. MDH states that a person drinking water at or below the guidance value of 7 ppb will have little or no risk for health effects from PFAS chemicals from their drinking water. The testing showed no detectable levels of the five other PFAS chemicals that are being monitored.
Statewide report
The latest annual drinking water report, based on testing from 2022, assesses how well public water supply systems are doing at meeting the standards set in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Results of monitoring by MDH engineers and public health sanitarians indicate that drinking water is generally in good shape in Minnesota’s 6,649 public water systems. 
Release of the Minnesota Drinking Water Annual Report 2022 comes in conjunction with Gov. Tim Walz declaring May 7-13 as Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota, a time when water professionals and the communities they serve jointly recognize the vital role water plays in people’s daily lives.  []
“The health of our drinking water sources is interconnected with the health of our communities, environment and climate,” Governor Walz said in his proclamation for Safe Drinking Water Week. “Protection of drinking water sources is achieved through collective action, collaboration and partnerships.”
The annual report also includes brief discussions of key initiatives such as efforts to identify and address new contaminants, such: as PFAS, that could affect drinking water quality; ongoing measures to protect users of public water systems from lead contamination in homes, schools and child care facilities; infrastructure needs, particularly with regard to funding the replacement of lead service lines; and resiliency in dealing with severe weather events brought on by climate change.
Monitoring results
According to the report, only rare contamination problems occurred in 2022 in Minnesota’s 964 community water systems (including 730 city water systems) and the state’s 5,685 noncommunity systems, which serve water to people in places other than their homes, such as factories, schools and resorts. Those problems and what was or is being done to address them are noted in the report.
Copies of the Tower and Breitung 2022 Drinking Water Reports are available at Tower City Hall and the Breitung Clerk’s Office.
More information about programs and resources to keep drinking water safe in Minnesota, along with Gov. Walz’s proclamation for Safe Drinking Water Week, can be found on the Drinking Water Protection page of the MDH website.