Waite Park municipal water found to have slightly high levels of man-made chemicals

WAITE PARK ― The three municipal drinking water supply wells in the city of Waite Park were recently found to have levels of man-made chemicals that are "slightly over the levels that exceed the Health Risk Index of 1" as determined by the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a press release Monday from the city's public works department.

As of June the HRI testing was 1.1, public works director Bill Schluenz said. In November, two of the wells had results much higher than the other one, so the city "immediately stopped using the two higher level wells and only used the other one," he said. Drinking water at or below an HRI of 1.0 presents little to no risk of health effects.

Waite Park is not in violation of any drinking water regulations, but high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS may contribute to negative health impacts with long-term, high levels of exposure. A water system or well is not the source of the contaminant but PFAS enter the water system through ground water.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals that break down very slowly over time. Several PFAS chemicals have been used for decades in many industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, waterproof clothing, upholstery, food paper wrappings, personal care products, fire-fighting foams and metal plating. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals and more evolving over time, which makes it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks, the release said.

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Waite Park voluntarily tested all the municipal drinking water supplies for PFAS as a pre-emptive measure to ensure the drinking water is safe and to better understand what emerging contaminants may need to be addressed, the release said.

The city is working with the Minnesota Department of Health to set up a pilot study to determine the best process on how to remove PFAS within Waite Park's water treatment system. In addition, Waite Park is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on determining whether or not a source of the contamination can be verified.

The city of Waite Park "will continue to do its part in keeping our residents and businesses updated on the impacts of PFAS on our water system as we work towards a water treatment solution which will eliminate or reduce the levels of PFAS in our drinking water," according to the release.

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Using water filters containing activated carbon or reverse osmosis membranes have been shown to be effective at removing PFAS from water supplies. Boiling water will not remove PFAS.

Area restaurants have been informed about the water quality, but businesses are not required to filter water. The present levels of PFAS in Waite Park's water should not pose a health risk to pets or plants.

Learn more about PFAS and how to reduce your exposure on the Minnesota Department of Health's website.

Becca Most is a cities reporter with the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-241-8213 or bmost@stcloudtimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @becca_most.

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This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Waite Park municipal water found to have man-made chemicals PFAS