June 7, 2022
The website shows the results of statewide tests in public water systems; the most recent data shows that most systems do not have PFAS at or above levels of concern
Minnesota residents who obtain drinking water from a community public water system will now be able to find out if the water in their system has a per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) level, via an interactive online dashboard unveiled today. by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
According to statewide test results reflected in the new dashboard, the vast majority of community water systems in the state have no PFAS detections or levels that are below the state’s current health concern levels. Health officials say the statewide testing and dashboard will provide a baseline of information to help communities manage any changes in the occurrence of PFAS or understanding of health risk in the future.
MDH initiated a project in 2021 to test PFAS in community water systems across the state. The dashboard represents the current state of that project. Testing and monitoring will continue until 2022. Minnesota joins other states, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, which have tested statewide drinking water for PFAS. MDH is prioritizing sampling in systems most vulnerable to PFAS contamination to address the highest potential risks to public health first.
“With this new tool, Minnesotans will be able to see for themselves whether PFAS is a health concern for their communities and families,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Health Commissioner. “Our statewide tests and dashboards are just two examples of how Minnesota continues to be a national leader in providing safe drinking water.”
PFAS are extremely stable and do not decompose in the environment. Higher levels of exposure to PFAS are associated with a wide range of human health effects. These include higher cholesterol, impaired liver function, reduced immune response, thyroid disease and, in the case of PFOA, increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer.
“MDH conducts stringent testing to make sure drinking water meets state PFAS guidelines,” said Sandeep Burman, manager of the drinking water protection section at MDH. “PFAS is a topic of growing national interest and Minnesota has taken a proactive approach to addressing PFAS in our communities and in our environment. PFAS science and standards will undoubtedly continue to evolve at the federal and state levels, and as we learn more, we will update the PFAS guide and work with systems to ensure that drinking water remains safe. The dashboard will help us and our community partners manage PFAS in drinking water now and in the future. ”
The statewide testing effort has completed 401 evaluation of approximately 900 public systems in the state, and the 401 systems evaluated serve approximately 75 percent of Minnesotans who obtain clean water from those systems. Nearly two-thirds of the systems tested so far had PFAS present at some level, but the vast majority had PFAS at levels below the current Minnesota health-based guide values in drinking water. Of those systems that have completed testing, only one currently exceeds the MDH guideline values. Of those still undergoing follow-up testing, about 1% are expected to have PFAS at levels above the state’s current health guide values. Community water systems with PFAS elevated above sanitary guidance levels can take actions to reduce PFAS levels, such as treatment or reduced pumping from contaminated wells.
“Some PFAS are commonly found at low levels in drinking water, but it is rare to find elevated PFAS in drinking water outside communities with known contamination sites,” said Jane de Lambert, MDH environmental researcher.
PFAS are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used for decades to make products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water. Since 2002, MDH has partnered with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to investigate the PFAS in Minnesota. This work began with drinking water investigations near the 3M Cottage Grove facility and related waste disposal sites in Washington County. State agencies released the Minnesota PFAS project in February 2021, which outlines a strategic approach and actions to address PFAS in the state. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently released a PFAS Strategic Roadmap of National Strategies for Managing PFAS in the Environment. That roadmap includes plans to set new federal standards for PFAS in drinking water. New federal standards could trigger the revision of Minnesota standards.