News Feature | March 24, 2017

High Levels Of Bacteria Found In Minnesota Wells

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson


Like many states in the country, Minnesota is struggling with bacteria and other viruses in small public drinking water wells.

According to, a study ordered by the state Legislature in 2014 reported that “while the overall presence of microbial indicators in samples was low, a high percentage of wells had at least one detection.”

A total of 82 wells had been tested and of those, “8 percent of samples tested positive for human viruses and 11 percent tested positive for Salmonella, a bacteria that can make people sick.” However, 37 percent of the systems “had DNA-like evidence of human viruses and 89 percent of systems had evidence of microbes, including some that don’t cause human illness, detected at least once.”

The study is planned to take place over two years and followings the completion of its first, the Department of Health could not conclude the source of the viruses and bacteria. It also could not determine the potential for widespread human health risk to those who drink from the positive-testing wells.

“We don’t know exactly how viruses and bacteria might be getting into wells,” Anita Anderson, project coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health, told “That’s part of the work we still have to do: looking at the wells, potential sources of contamination and other factors, and figuring out how the contamination is occurring and what can be done about it.”

The wells that are involved in the contamination do not serve any municipal water supply systems, reported.

“The wells studied are small, public water systems around the state, serving small cities, mobile home parks, apartment buildings, offices, factories, churches, schools and child-care facilities. Those systems are not required to treat the water.”

According to officials, “there are about 1,500 of those small, public systems across the state that don’t treat their water.”

Even though a final report on the situation is not expected for several months, “researchers are notifying system owners with vulnerable wells so they can assess their wells, look for solutions and inform their customers.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Analysis Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Well, September 2010" synx508 © 2010 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: