New dashboard shows PFAS levels in Minnesota’s drinking water

·2 min read

State officials on Tuesday unveiled a new tool to help Minnesotans see if there are toxic industrial compounds in their drinking water.

The Minnesota Department of Health debuted a new interactive online dashboard that shows the status and results of testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, in community water systems.

“With this new tool, Minnesotans will be able to see for themselves whether PFAS is a concern for the health of their communities and their families,” Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “Our statewide testing and dashboard are just two examples of how Minnesota continues to be a national leader in providing safe drinking water.”

Known as “forever chemicals” for their persistence in the environment, PFAS have been popular with manufacturers for decades and can be found in everything from nonstick cookware coating to fire-extinguishing foam. Higher levels of exposure to PFAS have been linked to increased cancer risk, developmental delays in children, damage to organs such as the liver and thyroid, increased cholesterol levels and reduced immune functions, especially among young children.

Health department officials started the PFAS testing project last year, prioritizing sampling in systems that are most vulnerable to PFAS contamination to address the highest potential public health risks first.

According to the map posted on the dashboard on Tuesday, only one site in Minnesota – in St. Paul Park in southern Washington County – had a concerning level of PFAS. The city, however, primarily uses two wells that are treated to remove PFAS and that provide water at a health-risk index near zero; the city’s third well, which is not treated and exceeds the state level of health concern, is not typically used, health department officials said.

The rest of the completed tests across the state – 401 out of about 900 public drinking systems in the state – did not detect PFAS or found levels that are below the current state levels of health concern. The 401 systems that were tested serve about 75 percent of Minnesotans who get drinking water from such systems, health department officials said.

Stricter guidelines regarding PFAS levels in drinking water could be coming, said Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the health department. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency have indicated that within the next year they hope to have maximum contaminant levels established for PFAS, he said.

“We don’t have MCLs now, so it wouldn’t be surprising in the meantime if they were to revise their guidance and for the health-risk index levels to get lower,” he said. “We’re preparing for that to possibly happen in the future and will work with systems to meet whatever standards might arise.”

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