Northfield’s municipal water quality: good, bad, or ugly?

Rob Schanilec We’re getting a Hague water filter from Kes Equipment and Sales installed in our home on Monday (a not-so-indirect result of my wife Robbie’s winning a case of bottled water donated by Gary and Pauline Kes at last fall’s Chamber of Commerce Pub Crawl). Left: Rob Schanilec won a case, too.

When Gary Kes did the in-home water analysis, it got me thinking about Northfield’s muncipal water supply. Then I noticed this sentence in the Feb. 4-8 Friday memo by City Administrator Al Roder: “The primary chemical at issue for the Water Division is chlorine gas, which is present at each well site.” Here’s the entire segment:

Water Division staff sampled and submitted the monthly bacteriological testing for the month. The EPA has designated total coliform bacteria as the standard to determine bacterial safety of water. Although coliform bacteria are not normally found in our water, proper levels of chlorine added to the water work to eliminate most levels of bacteria. Water samples are taken from 21 representative locations throughout the City of Northfield. Generally, these are locations with a higher amount of people present – schools, industry, and businesses. The samples are submitted to a private certified lab for testing. The results are then returned to the Water Division and the Minnesota Department of Health. This procedure is done on a monthly basis and an additional sample is taken on a quarterly time frame, providing safe potable drinking water for the community.

Water Division staff completed the submission of the Tier II report. This report is submitted annually to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The purpose of the data on this report is to provide state and local officials with specific information on hazardous chemicals present in each site and is also used for emergency preparedness planning. The primary chemical at issue for the Water Division is chlorine gas, which is present at each well site.

waterreport-sshot On the water section of the city’s web site, it says that the “Water Division produces an annual report titled Consumer Confidence Report, that includes detailed information about the City’s water quality.” That’s the 2006 report. I don’t know when the 2007 report will be made available.

There’s also a Wellhead Protection Committee that has met as recently as October, 2007 but I can’t find any minutes for any of their meetings, nor any information about who’s on the committee other than Rice County Commissioner Galen Malecha.

There’s a lot to learn about water for drinking, e.g. this web site, Everything You Wanted To Know About Drinking Water, But Didn’t Know Who To Ask. While few would dispute the need for adding chlorine to our water, there are many concerns about the health effects of chlorine in drinking water.

So if you have opinions about our water supply, let’s hear ’em.


  1. John S. Thomas said:

    We have installed a Culligan Reverse Osmosis water system about 18 months ago. Since that time, we have had no complaints about our drinking water.

    We are not purchasing bottled water, as the bottles have a huge impact on the environment.

    I am not sure if the system filters out the chlorine, but it filters out the odor and taste of it. It also filters out all of the things in the water, so it comes out very clean and clear. I think it is just the bees knees.

    February 17, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    AP/Strib this morning: Investigation finds drugs in drinking water.

    A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

    March 10, 2008
  3. We used to try and get info out of the beer and water companies about the quality of the water they use…never did get an answers verbally or on paper…or email either. Good luck.

    The filters I used to use had reverse osmosis, sand and another filter of unremembered type right now. We get distilled and hope for the best.

    Besides food, 95% of my liquid intake is water or cold water with a tea bag thrown in to avoid monotony. The other 5% is fruit juice. Once in awhile
    I make my own vegetable juice. For that I recommend

    1Apple 2Carrot handful of Spinach 1 Beet a bit of Parsely with a tab of blue green algae and a hunk of ginger or garlic, once or twice a week if you need
    a kick. It’s very high sugar content though. Drink some now, and freeze some for later, or cut it with water and share it with your mate.

    March 10, 2008
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    In City Administrator Al Roder’s memo last Friday:

    The Associated Press release an investigative report this week on personal care products or pharmaceuticals (PCPP) being detected in drinking water. The majority of the cities mentioned in the AP article receive their water as surface water (rivers, streams and lakes). The water is pulled from the river or lake, treated and pumped to the distribution system. As the water is used, it is flushed down to the wastewater treatment plants where it is treated before being returned to the river or lake. The water treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants are monitored by the state organizations to provide the safest water available. The communities downstream then pull the water from the source water and the cycle continues. Some of the small detectable amounts of can make their way through the filtering and treatment process and into the distribution system.

    The City of Northfield receives its water from groundwater (wells). This water is pumped to the surface from large aquifers hundreds of feet below the surface. The natural layers of ground structure and soils work as a natural filter as the water percolates back to the aquifer. This well water is tested and monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health for many contaminants, although not for the pharmaceuticals mentioned in the report. The Northfield Water Division provides a detailed yearly water report to all of its customers, and the 2007 report will be issued in July this year.

    March 17, 2008

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