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Minn. firm's new water filter: bacteria

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A rural Minnesota water company is experimenting with a new way of treating drinking water -- using bacteria to remove the harmful pollutants.

The Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water System has been using expensive reverse osmosis to clean nitrates and nitrites from its well water. But bacteria occur naturally in the water and when they're given extra food, they turn contaminants into harmless nitrogen gas, said Mark Johnson, CEO of the Lake Benton-based utility. 

The bacteria pilot project has removed nearly all of the nitrates and nitrites in the water, Johnson said.

The Minnesota Department of Health is watching the experiments and working on regulations that could be applied to other water systems that might want to try the bacterial treatment. It would cost Lincoln Pipestone about $2 million to build the bacteria treatment process.

"We want those regulations in place before we commit to building it, to know it would be an acceptable process to the Health Department," Johnson added.