Inver Grove Heights reports elevated radium levels in city water

In 2014, MDH said, nine municipal water systems in Minnesota — just over 1 percent of the total — had levels of radium above federal standards.
MPR News file photo

Officials in Inver Grove Heights say they’re taking steps to address elevated levels of radium detected in the city’s drinking water.

In a notice sent to residents of the southeast Twin Cities suburb last month, city officials said it’s not an emergency situation, and that residents can continue drinking city water while efforts to reduce radium levels continue. The city said there’s no need to boil water, or rely on bottled water.

The city said testing by the Minnesota Department of Health, reported to the city in January, found the level of combined radium at the city’s water treatment plant was 6.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The allowable standard for drinking water is 5.4 pCi/L.

“City staff have been working over the past month with our partners at the Minnesota Department of Health, our treatment chemical suppliers, and several engineering consulting firms to understand the cause of this issue, and to apply operational adjustments to address and correct this issue,” Inver Grove Heights Public Works Director Brian Connolly said in a statement — noting that he “will continue to drink city water every day.”

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR's budget year comes to a close on June 30. Help us close the gap by becoming a Sustainer today. When you make a recurring monthly gift, your gift will be matched by the MPR Member Fund for a whole year!

Connolly said the city has increased its water sampling and testing — and also is planning to replace its water treatment plant filters in 2024.

The water treatment plant, built in 1998 and expanded in 2006, “was one of the first in the Twin Cities to be designed and built to treat for radium removal,” the city reported in its message to residents. But its sand filtration system becomes less effective over time, and is due for replacement.

The city said residents with specific health concerns should contact their doctor or health care provider.

The state Department of Health said radioactive materials, including radium, “occur naturally in Minnesota and can be found in small amounts in Minnesota’s groundwater.” Large doses of radium over time can increase the risk for cancer, but levels found in Minnesota groundwater generally are not high enough to cause concern.

In 2014, MDH said, nine municipal water systems in Minnesota — just over 1 percent of the total — had levels of radium above federal standards.

Inver Grove Heights officials created a web page with more information about the water quality issue, and also answered questions from residents at a Tuesday meeting.

Town Square Television video of Inver Grove Heights city meeting on water: