The north metro city of Andover could get $9 million in state funding to address water contamination issues that have prevented some residents from being able to safely consume tap water in their homes.

State Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, on Tuesday introduced a bill that would provide some of the money needed to connect about 50 homes in the Red Oaks neighborhood to the city's water system. Residents there have been forced to use bottled water to drink, cook food and brush their teeth since high levels of the cancer-causing 1,4-dioxane were found in private wells.

"These contaminated wells are a public safety hazard for people in our district, not to mention the significant inconveniences they are causing," Niska said. "Safe drinking water is one of those things you take for granted, until you don't have it."

Getting state funding to connect homes to the city's water system and addressing what caused private wells to become contaminated is a top priority for Andover, City Administrator Jim Dickinson said.

"I'm positive it is moving forward," Dickinson said of the bill. "It has bipartisan support."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health found concentrations of 1,4-dioxane above 1 microgram per liter in homeowners' wells while conducting testing near the closed Waste Disposal Engineering landfill in August 2021. Anything above 1 microgram per liter is cause for health concern, according to the Health Department.

Retesting of wells in June and July in the neighborhood off Bunker Lake and Crosstown boulevards showed little change, the MPCA said.

The agency has provided bottled water for the past year and a half to homes where sampling values were detected above safe levels. It will also provide bottled water to any additional homes found to have unsafe 1,4-dioxane levels as testing continues, the agency said.

Use of the synthetic industrial chemical as a stabilizer for chlorinated solvents ended in 1995, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Drinking contaminated water is the primary way people are exposed to 1,4-dioxane, the MPCA said.

In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz declared the defunct Andover landfill, now a Superfund site 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.

But officials are not positive the 1,4-dioxane contamination is coming from the landfill, and recent MPCA data indicated the landfill is not the source, an agency spokesman said.

"Additional site investigation is necessary to determine the source and fully define the extent of the contamination," the spokesman said.

In the meantime, the MPCA will continue to conduct routine sampling in the neighborhood. The agency also is coordinating with the EPA to evaluate potential sources of contamination in the area.

"Those investigations can continue, and should, but not to the detriment of people in our district continuing to suffer health risks," Niska said. "Public safety is a chief responsibility of government, and we owe it to the people we serve to abide by that principle."

Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, previously authored legislation regarding this issue and is a co-author of Niska's current bill. Sen. Cal Bahr, R-East Bethel, is carrying a companion bill in the Senate.

Niska said he hopes to soon bring his bill to the House Capital Investment Committee with the goal of having it included in a bonding package this session.