Minnesota Communities Investing in New Type of Water Treatment

December 26, 2017 06:57 AM

Our 10,000 lakes are quickly freezing into ice. Still, cities across the metro are becoming increasingly aware of an emerging contaminant found in some of Minnesota's water sources.

It's called 1,4-dioxane. It's highly mobile, doesn't biodegrade in the environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it's likely to cause cancer. To rid the chemical from the water in St. Anthony, the city first flushes all groundwater through the state's very first advanced oxidation treatment plant.


"We really don't have an alternative water supply," said city engineer Todd Hubmer.

All the drinking water in St. Anthony comes from the ground, so when elevated levels of the chemical 1,4-dioxane showed up in one of the wells, the city had to find a fast solution.

"We immediately shut down the one well that was over one part per billion and we operated the other two wells," Hubmer said.

RELATED: Minneapolis Spending $63 Million for Clean Drinking Water

They traced the issue back to the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills where traces of the emerging contaminant were found deep underground.

"You knew a plume would get here eventually so it was better to be proactive," said St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust.

In a matter of months, with funding from the Army, St. Anthony built the state's first advanced oxidation process plant and got it up and running before levels of 1,4-dioxane ever exceeded the EPA's guidelines.

"I think one of the main requirements of a city is to provide clean and safe drinking water," Faust said.

The process uses UV light to clean the water and it isn't specific to only 1,4-dioxane. If new contaminants are discovered in the future the plant is likely already ridding the water of those too.

"There are very few contaminants that we won't be able to address that are found in groundwater with this system," Hubmer said.

Two other plants are in the works too. One in New Brighton and another in St. Louis Park, after another source of 1,4-dioxane was found.

"As they begin to test for it in other locations, they're likely to find it," Hubmer said.

According to the EPA, as of 2016, 1,4-dioxane had been identified at more than 34 sites on the EPA national priorities


Katherine Johnson

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