Ask Minnesotans if they know of a baby who had "Blue Baby Syndrome," and the answer is most likely\\"no." The prevention of new cases of Blue Baby Syndrome is a major public health achievement made possible by the efforts of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and many partners in drinking water protection across the state. MDH is responsible for safeguarding the quality of drinking water and enforcing the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in Minnesota. Preventing and treating nitrate contamination in drinking water, the theme for this year's annual report, is an issue that affects many public water systems in Minnesota. Nitrate nitrogen (nitrate) comes from many sources, including fertilizers, manure, septic systems, and natural decomposition of organic matter. Concentrated sources of nitrate can release excessive amounts of nitrate and can contaminate water sources. Infants (less than six months old) who drink water or formula made with water with high levels of nitrate can become critically ill and develop methemoglobinemia, which is also known as Blue Baby Syndrome. MDH ensures safe and sufficient public drinking water supplies through a strategic series of safeguards from sources in rivers, lakes and groundwater until the drinking water reaches the tap. The safeguards include three basic strategies of prevention, treatment and monitoring. Prevention focuses on controlling potential sources of pollution and managing land uses in the area where rain drains to become groundwater that supplies a well. Prevention activities also include plan review, advice on construction of water treatment and distribution facilities, and inspection of these facilities on a regular basis. Treatment measures, including routine disinfection, are used to make the water safe to drink. Monitoring of public water supplies for more than 100 potentially harmful contaminants on a routine basis is a critical element in the state's enforcement responsibilities that ensure safe drinking water. Without sustained prevention efforts, effective treatment, and continued vigilance in monitoring, Blue Baby Syndrome and other health conditions related to nitrate in drinking water could once again become a threat to Minnesotans' health. Successful efforts to reduce nitrate contamination in our sources of drinking water will reduce treatment costs and also keep out other contaminants that could also follow nitrate's pathway to contaminant drinking water. Nitrate provides an apt illustration of the strategic system essential to ensuring safe public drinking water everywhere in Minnesota, now and in the future.
Number of Pages
Minnesota Water Research Digital Library