Report: Most Minnesota drinking water in good shape, nitrate concerns are up

The Minnesota Department of Health's report on drinking water released on Wednesday said the vast majority of the state's drinking water is in good shape, but the report also said the number of community public water systems with high nitrate levels has climbed to 8 in just 6 years.

Full report: Minnesota Drinking Water 2015

"Now that might now seem like a small number but in just 6 years that affects from 15,000 to 50,000 people who are affected by nitrates in their water system," health commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said.

The consequences can be especially harmful in newborn babies, where the nitrates bind to their blood and create a condition called "blue baby syndrome."

"It can be fatal and I've dealt with babies who have died with this disease, that's why we're really ahead of this," Dr. Ehlinger said. "Even one case would be really traumatic."

One of Gov. Mark Dayton's solutions involves adding 50-foot buffer strips of vegetation around lakes and streams to filter runoff, but one rural lawmaker would rather see soil and conservation districts get more support to identify problem areas.

"We need to fund them properly and that's a partnership between the counties and the state. If we can fund those properly then we can get the work done on the ground to find the spots where buffers will do the good work for water that we need them to do," Rep. Paul Tokelson (R-Hanska) said.

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