ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The Minnesota Department of Health has removed an employee from lab duty over alleged misconduct involving the analysis of drinking water supplies. The employee was testing water for volatile organic compounds and gasoline and diesel products, but they didn’t follow proper procedures and quality control steps.
The longtime employee has been placed on investigative leave.
The flawed testing may have generated weaker, less defensible results. These results are particularly important to several Twin Cities suburbs where drinking water supplies have been monitored for chemical contamination. The health department is reprocessing its analysis of public water systems, with priority given to those considered most sensitive, including:
5 public water supply systems in Brooklyn Center, Edina, St. Louis Park, Spring Park and Kasota.
Several private drinking wells in Baytown Township and adjacent areas of Washington County.
Private wells near the Lindala Sanitary Landfill site in Wright County.
“We are concerned about this situation and we are making every effort, including contracting for outside laboratory assistance, to reanalyze the work as quickly as possible,” MDH Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said. “We have an obligation to provide sound, science-based information to our partners and the public.”
Ehlinger said it could take 1 to 2 months for the investigation to yield more insight into the analysis. As part of a quality initiative, an outside analyst was the one who first noticed inconsistencies in the data and called it into quesiton.
The initial review indicates the allegedly improper work was limited to one employee. The misconduct doesn’t present a significant or immediate public health risk, but it raises questions about the reliability of water testing data used by the health department and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for projects going back to at least May 2013.