Monticello says tests show water not affected by nuclear leak

Electrical lines and towers frame a power plant
The Xcel Energy nuclear generating plant near Monticello, Minn.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Monticello officials say independent tests have found the city's drinking water is safe, following a leak at the nearby nuclear power plant.

Last month, the city submitted water samples from its municipal wells to a private vendor to test for radioactive tritium. 

Officials hope to restore public confidence in the city's drinking water, after tritium leaked from a faulty pipe at the Monticello nuclear plant. 

The test results showed all samples of the city's water had tritium levels well below federal health limits. The highest sample was 209 picocuries per liter, compared to the federal limit of 20,000 picocuries per liter.

“We were anticipating that there would be some low levels of tritium,” said Rachel Leonard, city administrator. 

Tritium is produced naturally in the atmosphere, as well as during nuclear power production. It also was dispersed as a result of nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

But baseline data from the Minnesota Department of Health indicated that tritium levels in the city’s drinking water have not risen since the nuclear plant leak, Leonard said.

Xcel Energy shut down the plant last month to repair the water leak. State officials say monitoring wells show the contamination hasn't left the plant site, and there's no danger to the public.

Leonard said she hopes the results will help ease concerns about the safety of the city's water.

“I do entirely understand that having this extra bit of reassurance for the community is really important,” she said. “I want to make sure that we're doing everything possible to make sure that people feel safe and comfortable when they turn on the taps in their homes.”

Minnesota Department of Health officials planned to attend the Monticello City Council meeting Monday night to review the test results and answer questions. Leonard said the city will continue to test its water supply periodically for tritium.

Separately, the city is seeking state and federal funding for a $28 million water treatment plant to treat high levels of manganese in the water supply, unrelated to the nuclear plant leak.

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