Health Dept: Chemical in drinking water has dropped to safe levels in five communities

Filtering system to keep chemicals out of the water.
Keith Rapp has an elaborate filtering system he uses to ensure his water is as free of chemicals.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

A handful of communities identified by an environmental watchdog have reduced their levels of a dangerous chemical in their drinking water supply, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Using data from 2010-2015, the D.C.-based Environmental Working Group found trichloroethylene (TCE) in the drinking water supplies of 15 Minnesota communities, though only five exceeded the state limit of 0.4 parts per billion during that time.

None exceeded the federal level of 5.0 parts per billion.

Edina, Bayport, Spring Park, Minnesota Veterans Home and Spring Grove have since lowered their levels of TCE and are compliance with state recommendations, said Jim Kelly, the state Health Department's manager of environmental surveillance and assessment.

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"From our stand point, it's really a good news story," Kelly said. "We've taken steps in Minnesota to provide additional protection in regards to this chemical."

Kelly said Minnesota's stricter standards are based in the most recent science around how TCE affects people.

"It's based on protecting against health effects such as cancer, developmental affects and a certain heart problem that can be seen in a developing fetus," he said.

The findings are part of a national assessment that looked at 321 public water systems in 36 states.