After evaluating certain practices related to the handling and transportation of water quality samples, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has taken swift action to strengthen its procedures. MDH is working with staff and other laboratories to ensure that test results are as accurate as possible so that the department can respond to any potential health risks.
The MDH response plan for this issue includes the following elements:
- Immediate communication and training for staff to ensure all water samples are kept at proper temperature during transport from collection site to laboratory;
- Evaluation of past monitoring results to determine which results complied with the temperature requirements;
- Prioritized retesting of water systems based on factors including past monitoring results; and
- A broad, independent review of water sample handling procedures and practices of the department.
An internal review of procedures by MDH revealed that some water quality samples testing levels of organic (e.g., fertilizer and household chemicals) and inorganic (e.g., cyanide and nitrite) compounds had not been kept at low enough temperatures during storage. This makes detection of harmful substances in water samples more difficult. While uncompromised data from other agencies indicates that citizens have not been exposed to a health threat, MDH is taking proactive measures to protect the public health and see that any errors are corrected. “While the situation as a whole would not suggest an increased risk for most communities, we want to ensure we have the highest level of reliability in our data on drinking water quality,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger.
In light of the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, the sheer thought that a health risk could ever go undetected is unacceptable to citizens and state environmental regulators, and representatives of MDH are committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to maintain safe drinking water. More information is available here.