Inver Grove Heights holds meeting on elevated levels of radium in water

The Minnesota Department of Health and Inver Grove Heights Public Works Department hosted a community meeting on Tuesday night, to discuss high levels of cancer-causing radium in the town’s drinking water.

"Every time I go to the sink now I’m like do I really want that drink?" one woman said at the meeting. "Because I’m worried about what I’m putting into my body."

Local officials say Dakota County and other parts of Minnesota have had radium in their drinking water for some time. But recently, the levels in Inver Grove Heights have risen to unsafe amounts.

Residents filled most of the seats in the room on Tuesday to voice their concerns over water quality, after receiving these letters in the mail.

"I’m wondering why it took them so long to let us know if it’s been in there for months already, and we’re just finding out now?" Kimberly Mathes said of the letters.

The city says technical difficulties at a MDH laboratory delayed the radium test results by at least one month, until January. Then, another 16 days passed before letters were mailed to warn more than 8,000 customers. Since being alert, Public Works has made in-house adjustments to its water treatment process that may address the problem in the short term. 

"I can’t say that unequivocally, but we feel very positive about the changes we’ve made in the system that would put us back to a level that would put us into compliance," Public Works director Brian Connolly told residents. In the long term, he plans to install new filters in the system by January 2024. The upgrade would replace aging infrastructure that has never been replaced, at a cost of about $2.8 million.

"I admit it, I will fall on the sword, it is my responsibility as Public Works director to say that we screwed up and should’ve done this sooner," Connolly finished. "We have a violation and we want to try to get your trust back."

Inver Grove Heights next radium test is scheduled in April, and results will be posted on the city’s public works webpage.