Data summary report: Unregulated contaminants monitoring project

Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
By: , and 



The Drinking Water Protection Section of the Minnesota Department of Health conducted reconnaissance monitoring of selected public water systems in Minnesota. Funding was obtained primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Sampling was conducted in 2019 and 2021. Laboratory analysis of samples was conducted for a variety of different contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), including selected pharmaceuticals, pesticides, PFAS, wastewater indicators and other parameters chosen for the physical and land use setting surrounding the sampling points. Sampling site and parameter selection were designed with several goals, as follows: Characterize occurrence and distribution of selected CECs in settings where such chemicals are most likely to be present; Determine if any such occurrences represent a public health concern; Compare results from coupled source water and finished (i.e., treated) water samples at public water system sites where such sampling is feasible; Assess if results from geologically vulnerable (sensitive subject to rapid recharge) and geologically non-vulnerable settings differ significantly. 306 samples were collected as part of the study, from three networks of public water systems differentiated on the basis of source water type (i.e., surface water or groundwater) and land use environment (agricultural and wastewater influenced). This report provides a preliminary, qualitative evaluation of the results. Additionally, more rigorous research will be conducted on these water quality data to evaluate the below findings in more detail. High-level findings from this assessment include the following: Very few samples exceeded health-based guidance for CECs; o When this occurred, MDH staff conducted follow up sampling at the system and provided technical advice about managing the situation. Only a fraction of the CECs analyzed were detected; o Of the 522 different CECs analyzed in the water samples, 161 were detected in one or more samples; o Additionally, most detections were at low levels; Among the CEC classes included in the analytical work, pesticides and PFAS were generally detected at a greater frequency than other CECs; o See Executive Summary Figure 1. The ten most commonly detected individual compounds include: o Tribromomethane, or bromoform, (a disinfection by-product) (70% of sites where analyzed); o norgestrel (a pharmaceutical) (69% of sites where analyzed); o lithium (68% of sites where analyzed); o Metolachlor SA (52%), Deethylatrazine (49%), atrazine (45%), and deisopropylatrazine (31%) (pesticides); o PFBA (44%) and PFHxS (27%) (PFAS compounds); and o 5-methyl benzotriazole (29%) (a benzotriazole). Some CECs were detected more frequently in samples collected from surface waters than those collected from groundwater sources; CEC concentrations were generally higher in vulnerable settings compared to nonvulnerable settings; Whether CECs were detected more frequently in the source water or finished water varied by CEC class. For example, o Benzotriazoles and pharmaceuticals were more frequently detected in source water samples than finished water samples; and o Tribromomethane, or bromoform, a common disinfection by-product, was more frequently found in finished water samples than in source water samples. This work prompted a series of programmatic changes and innovations: A response framework was established for helping the program and public water systems manage detections of unregulated CECs in drinking water; Results were forwarded to the program within MDH responsible for developing healthbased guidance in order to nominate specific compounds found in drinking water but for which limited or no risk advice is available; MDH is seeking support from the Clean Water Council to support the establishment of permanent capacity within the Drinking Water Protection Section to continue sampling efforts of this type.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Data summary report: Unregulated contaminants monitoring project
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Minnesota Department of Health
Contributing office(s) Minnesota Water Science Center, Upper Midwest Water Science Center
Description 85 p.
Country United States
State Minnesota
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details