Dates in the History of the Minnesota Drinking Water Program
• Minnesota State Board of Health (now the
Minnesota Department of Health) was established as a result of waterborne and
food borne diseases. Typhoid fever, a waterborne disease, was taking a large
toll of lives at this time. We were the third state (after Massachusetts and
California) to establish a board of health.
• The Board of Health consisted of nine
members, appointed by the governor, who were learned in sanitary science. Dr.
Charles N. Hewitt, a Red Wing physician, was the board’s first executive
officer, and the major problem facing him was typhoid fever, a waterborne
disease that has now been virtually wiped out because of modern sanitation
techniques and treatment of drinking water. From its inception in 1872 until
1969, the Health Department had only five different executive officers (which
later became the position of commissioner)
• The same year the Board of Health was started
(1872), Minneapolis Water Works was established for drinking water (it had begun
for fire fighting five years earlier). It has grown to become the largest water
utility in the Upper Midwest with approximately 1,000 miles of pipe in the
• Chlorine was introduced as a disinfectant of
water supplies in the United States in 1908, resulting in a dramatic decrease of
waterborne disease outbreaks and individual cases of illness—number of deaths
attributed to typhoid fever and cholera dropped to virtually zero in the U. S.
by the mid-20th century.
• Typhoid remained a problem in Minnesota until
chlorination of community water supplies helped bring down the prevalence of the
disease. Minneapolis introduced chlorination in 1910, Duluth in 1912, and St.
Paul in 1920.
(Chlorination came to Minnesota in 1910 when the
Minneapolis City Council authorized the establishment of a sterilizing plant to
treat water with hypochlorite of lime, which was a major sanitary step. The
state health department, recognizing the significance of this new water
treatment, had a homemade, portable hypocholorite plant for emergency use in
typhoid and dysentery epidemics throughout the state. A dramatic demonstration
by the department took place at Hibbing in May 1910, when an outbreak of
dysentery “stopped as soon as the hypochlorite treatment commenced, and…at no
time since has the water, in any of the samples taken, shown the presence of
pathogenic bacteria.” In 1910 Minneapolis, Hibbing, East Grand Forks,
Breckenridge, Brainerd, and Baudette were chlorinating water. St. Paul was using
chlorine by 1917 at its McCarron’s Station facility.)
More on the impact of chlorination: In 1881,
Minneapolis reported 450 to 600 cases of typhoid; approximately 1 out of 10
cases resulted in death. In 1888, when the population of Minnesota was
1,447,500, the state reported 13,262 deaths from tuberculosis, pneumonia, and
typhoid. Minneapolis continued to deal with typhoid outbreaks until 1910 when
the city’s water system began to chlorinate. Meanwhile, the first great 20th-century
epidemic in the state took place in Mankato in 1908 when 4,000 to 6,000 people
became sick (with approximately 70 dying) when sewage entered the water supply.
The last large epidemic occurred in Minneapolis in 1935 when, because of
insufficient chlorination, 175 cases of illness and six deaths were reported.
Today, 539 municipal water systems in Minnesota (out of 713 in the state) use
chlorine to disinfect their
• State Board of Health adopted rules requiring
submission and approval of plans for public water supplies.
• State Board of Health adopted rules
prohibiting cross connections between potable and non-potable water supplies.
• Construction completed on water treatment
plant in St. Paul to provide coagulation, filtration, and disinfection.
• The first state plumbing code, requiring
licensed plumbers in cities with populations of greater than 5,000, was
• State Board of Health adopted a water supply
standard for the design for all types and sizes of water supplies.
• The first operator training session was held
in Minnesota. Sessions were held on a yearly basis until the 1950s. At that time
voluntary certification for water and wastewater operators was instituted.
• Public Health Service standards, consisting
of 25 health and aesthetic parameters, were published by the federal government.
They were mandatory for interstate carriers and were recommended for public
Mandatory fluoridation of municipal water supplies began in Minnesota for the
purpose of enhancing dental protection
• Certification of water operators became
mandatory in Minnesota. We currently provide training for approximately 1,000
operators per year and have 2,588 certified operators.
• Establishment of the Well Program
• Water well construction code.
• Interim regulations (which referenced the
1962 Public Health Service standards) were established for 25 parameters. This
was a prelude to the passage of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a
national program to protect the quality of the nation’s drinking water systems.
President Ford signed the SDWA on December 16, 1974. It established a
cooperative program among local, state, and federal agencies and required the
establishment of primary drinking water regulations designed to ensure safe
drinking water for the consumer. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), which had been established only four years before, was responsible for
the administration and enforcement of the regulations under the Act, although it
was expected that the states, through their health departments and environmental
agencies, would accept primary enforcement responsibility (or primacy) from EPA
to administer the program in their states.
• Minnesota achieved primacy for the drinking
water program, taking over the enforcement and administration of the Safe
Drinking Water Act in the state. We were the 11th state nationally to
achieve this and the first state in EPA’s Region 5.
• Minnesota plumbing code banned the use of
lead-based solder as well as lead pipes and fittings. We were the second state
nationally to ban the use of lead-based solders. During the first year of the
ban, we required that six new systems, including a new school, be replumbed to
eliminate illegally installed lead solder.
During this time, we studied lead accumulation in
school drinking water and issued guidelines for the frequency and methods of
flushing drinking water systems in schools to reduce lead in the water.
• First major amendments to the Safe Drinking
Water Act. Congress significantly underestimated the time required for EPA to
develop credible regulations under the original Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
In reaction, Congress included deadlines for standard setting in the 1986
amendments to the Act. The 1986 amendments were prescriptive and required EPA to
regulate 83 contaminants within three years after enactment, an increase from 26
contaminants regulated before the 1986 amendments. Further, EPA was required to
regulate an additional 25 contaminants (to be specified by EPA) every three
years and to designate the best available treatment technology for each
contaminant regulated. The amendments also initiated the ground water protection
program, including the Wellhead Protection Program as a means of offering a
cost-effective means of protecting ground water supplies. EPA studies have
demonstrated that prevention is far more cost-effective than remediation;
contamination can cost communities up to 200 times as much as prevention through
wellhead protection. Protecting ground water from contamination provides cleaner
source water for groundwater systems, thereby promoting more cost-effective
compliance with SDWA. In addition, the Sole Source Aquifer Demonstration Program
was added to the existing sole source aquifer provision. This program provides
funding to identify and provide the special protections needed for sole source
aquifers. States with primacy were required to adopt regulations and begin
enforcing them within 18 months of EPA’s promulgation.
Highlights of the 1986 Amendments
Regulation of 83 new chemicals by fiscal year 1992 (up from the 25 currently
Regulation of an additional 25 chemicals every three years after fiscal year
Monitoring of unregulated contaminants.
Mandatory filtration of surface water systems.
Mandatory disinfection of all public water systems.
Public notification program established for violations.
Requirement for states to develop wellhead protection.
• Passage of Lead Contamination Control Act,
which banned the use of tank-type water coolers.
• Passage of state Groundwater Protection Act.
Governor Rudy Perpich designated the Minnesota Department of Health as the lead
agency for developing the program, which:
authorized the development of a state wellhead
protection rule for public water supply systems;
expanded the well program to include district
office inspection staff, which have reduced well construction violations
tenfold (to a current level of only 3 percent of wells); and
required well disclosure at property transfer
and the sealing of unused wells--140,000 wells have been sealed to date.
• The EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule caused us
to change how we sampled for these contaminants. Any water system that had more
than 10 percent of its homes indicated elevated levels of lead or copper had to
perform a number of corrective actions. With lead, the actions included an
ongoing campaign of public education. In addition to requiring the affected
systems to perform this education, we conducted our own “Get the Lead Out!”
campaign, and spread our message through refrigerator magnets, articles in local
publications, appearances on radio and television shows, and on grocery bags in
Cub and Rainbow foods. Our education campaign continues to this day.
• MDH submitted the state wellhead protection
program description to the EPA for approval. EPA approved the plan the following
• MDH began issuing an annual drinking water
report card on the quality of drinking water in the state’s public water supply
• Passage of another major set of amendments to
the Safe Drinking Water Act. The amendments also addressed concerns about the
existence of what was seen as an overly burdensome regulatory structure.
Congress eliminated the 1986 requirement that EPA regulate an additional 25
contaminants every three years. Instead, EPA was allowed to establish a
process for selecting contaminants to regulate based on scientific merit. In
addition, the amendments also include provisions to allow for flexibility of
regulations and monitoring for small water systems, and a requirement that EPA
conduct cost-benefit analyses of new regulations and analyze the likely effect
of the regulation on the viability of public water systems.
Another key element in the 1996 amendments was the
requirement that states develop a program for preparing source water assessments
for all public water supply systems (a broadening of the wellhead protection
program to include surface sources as well).
The amendments also addressed concerns about
funding needs for drinking water infrastructure and the need for the public to
receive more information on their drinking water. The former was dealt with by
the creation of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which was modeled after the
Clean Water State Revolving Fund that was already in existence for wastewater;
the latter concern was addressed by the Consumer Confidence Report:
The Drinking Water Revolving Fund to allow us
to issue below-market-rate loans to water systems to make capital
improvements necessary to maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water
Act. To date, we have issued more than $100 million in loans to 69 different
communities for 97 projects.
The Consumer Consumer Confidence Report Rule
requires that all community water systems in the country issue annual water
quality reports to their customers. The reports must contain information
about where the source of the system’s water as well as a list of
contaminants that were detected in the water, even in trace amounts, during
the previous year. In Minnesota, we have put together a system under which
we were able to issue the necessary information for the reports for all
955 systems that are required to do this. As a result we have achieved
over a 99 percent compliance rate in each of the years since the reports
have been acquired.
• Minnesota promulgated the state wellhead
• MDH submitted the state source water
assessment program description to the EPA for approval in February 1999. EPA
formally approved the program in April 2000. All assessments must be completed
by May 2003.
• Minnesota was ranked as having the Number 1
Drinking Water Protection Program nationally. The ranking was determined by the
National Rural Water Association based on four years of EPA compliance data.
• MDH, in conjunction with the Minnesota
Section of American Water Works Association, began the first of a series of
Drinking Water Institutes, designed for Minnesota teachers for the purpose of
having them write curriculum for their classrooms on drinking water. The
following year, this program received a national education award from American
Water Works Association.
currently has 8,038 public water systems, broken down into:
956 community water systems
596 noncommunity nontransient systems
6,486 noncommunity transient systems
Collection of more than
35,000 samples per year
Sample sets collected during fiscal year 2000
705 synthetic organic chemicals
1,066 volatile organic chemicals
841 inorganic chemicals
907 radiological chemicals
18,000 total coliform
75-80 located in Metro office and 8 district offices
currently provide training for approximately 1,000 operators per year and have
3,604 certified operators.
fiscal year 2001, 292 people took certification exams, 246 operator certificates
were issued, and 472 operator certificates were renewed.
Drinking Water Revolving Fund: To date,
the program has distributed $126,860,702 in loans to 51 communities for 118
projects. The Intended Use Plan for fiscal year 2002 contains $102,173,996 of
loan requests from 51 communities for 85 projects.
of construction plans for public water systems: 1,111 were reviewed in 2000.
Drinking Water Act, Source Water Protection
Water Operator Certification
$5.21 Service Connection Fee
Drinking Water Revolving Fund-Public Facilities Authority
Source Water Protection
Safe Drinking Water Act
Water Operator Certification
Source Water Protection
Parts 141, 142, and 143 (Federal Safe Drinking Water Act)
Drinking Water Act Rules
Volatile Organic Contaminants
Synthetic Organic Contaminants
Surface Water Treatment
Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment
Long-term Surface Water Treatment 1
Long-term Surface Water Treatment 2
Disinfection/Disinfection By-products stage 1
Disinfection/Disinfection By-products stage 2
Filter Backwash Recycling
Consumer Confidence Reports Public Notification Rule
Variance and Exemption Rule
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring
Source Water Protection
Underground Injection Control, Class V
Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund Infrastructure Needs Survey
Treatment Technology List
Rules Promulgated or Revised Since 1996
Pb & Cu
Consumer Confidence Reports