Residents in an Andover neighborhood with well water contaminated by a cancer-causing chemical are hoping to get answers as to what is causing it and what state officials plan to do about it.
The north metro city will host a virtual meeting Thursday with officials from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to give an update on the situation after high levels of 1,4-dioxane were found in several private wells in the Red Oaks neighborhood in August.
Betsy Berg, who has lived in Red Oaks for 35 years, said she's been trying to get answers for nearly two months after she was notified her water was contaminated and tested above state guidelines for safe drinking water.
"There has been no communication," Berg said. "This is important. Be honest and tell us so there is not this hysteria over this."
At least 40 wells in the neighborhood have 1,4-dioxane concentrations above 1 microgram per liter, according to a fact sheet produced by the state's Health Department. Anything above 1 microgram per liter creates health concerns. Berg's well tested at 9.6 micrograms per liter. Her neighbor, Monika Dipert's, registered at 2,000.
The chemical 1,4-dioxane was used as a stabilizer for the chlorinated solvent that was often used for industrial purposes. Groundwater contaminated with 1,4-dioxane is largely caused by the historical use and disposal of chlorinated solvents, the MPCA said. Drinking contaminated water is the primary way people are exposed to the chemical, the MPCA said.
The source of the contamination remains under investigation, according to a statement from the MPCA. But it was discovered during water sampling affecting private residential wells near Bunker Lake and Crosstown boulevards and near the former Waste Disposal Engineering Landfill.
In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz declared the defunct landfill, now managed by the MPCA, one of the most toxic sites in the state. More than 6,600 barrels of hazardous waste were disposed of there in the 1970s. The 2019 bonding bill included $10 million to begin cleaning it up.
The contamination is limited to private wells and has not affected those hooked up to the city's water system, which has been declared safe, the MPCA said.
A spokesman for the state Department of Health said staff at the agency have fielded "many phone calls and e-mails" from residents in the area. Doug Schultz said people can reach the Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or can get a call from the agency by leaving a message at 651-201-4897. Some answers may be found on the Health Department's fact sheet about the water contamination.
Residents like Berg with contaminated wells have been receiving bottled water. For the past two months, Berg has not used her tap water.
"We do everything out of the cooler, washing fruits, rinsing noodles, cooking, brushing teeth," she said. "We were told not to consume it."
But she said that's about all she has been told.
"Send us a letter and there would be a lot less frustration," Berg said. "Tell us what is going on. I just want safe water."
The virtual meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday. Those without access to a computer can view the meeting at City Hall.
Staff writer Matt McKinney contributed to this report.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768