Much of the Minnesota public health laboratory is expected to return to normal operations by the end of the week after the building's heating system failed on Monday. But reopening the state's environmental health lab may take longer, a delay that could require some retesting of samples.
Portions of the state lab that investigates public health threats suffered damage that could exceed $1 million when cold caused pipes to burst.
Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson Doug Schultz said officials expect newborn screening and infectious disease lab work to resume in the St. Paul building by the end of the week.
Schultz said operations in the environmental health lab, where technicians test for things like mercury in fish or evaluate municipal water supplies, could remain closed much longer as crews clean and rehab the areas. The delay may make it harder to accurately test some of the samples.
"The issue there is what they call holding time," Schultz said. "If you're testing for volatile organic chemicals, they're going to dissipate no matter what, and other substances may disappear over time or may not be as easily detectable."
Schultz said officials are still deciding exactly how to proceed if there is a delay in testing samples in the environmental health lab.
"It may be that we have to retest some things, it depends on what it is and how crucial it is," Schultz said. "We may be able to obtain additional samples and do the testing for the different parties that sent us the samples."
Until the public health lab is restored, the state is sending newborn screenings to private contractor PerkinElmer. The contractor is expected to process screenings for more than 50 disorders within the 24-hour time period necessary to maintain the tests' accuracy.