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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Northfield boasts clean, safe water

By Sara Perelli-Minetti
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 15, 2004

Lately, there have been concerns on campus regarding the cleanliness of St. Olaf's water supply. However, students can rest assured that St. Olaf uses some of the safest and cleanest water in Minnesota.

St. Olaf has used the town of Northfield's water supply since 1999 after stopping the use of its own well system due to high levels of radium found in the water.

Northfield's water system is comprised of five wells, four of which are operated. The wells are approximately 400 feet deep and are connected to the Jordan Aquifer, a large underground body of water.

Paul Jackson, assistant professor of chemistry, explained that drinking water can come from three sources: surface water (such as rivers) ground water and aquifers. Aquifers, the source of St. Olaf's water, often provide the safest and cleanest drinking water, he said.

After the water is drawn from the Jordon Aquifer, fluoride, chlorine and polyphosphates are added to the water system at each individual well site as the water is pumped from the wells into the water distribution system.

Although these chemicals are added to help purify the water, the question of contamination still lingers. In an effort to inform citizens on the condition of their water supply, Minnesota requires each town to issue an annual report on the state of its drinking water.

In Northfield's 2003 report, no contaminants were detected at levels that violated federal drinking water standards. Although some contaminants were detected in trace amounts, they were well below the legal limits, according to the report.

Despite the absence of contaminants in St. Olaf's water, some students express concern with its hardness. The town of Northfield reports a water hardness of 310 parts per million, an iron content of .2 p.p.m., a manganese content of .11 p.p.m., an alkalinity of 270 p.p.m., and a pH of 7.4. In such minimal amounts, these minerals have no tangible negative effect on the water supply.

Jackson noted the cleanliness of public water compared to bottled water.

"The public drinking water system is, in fact, more regulated than bottled water," Jackson said. "Youre much more likely to have bottled water be contaminated than water from a public supply."

Jackson added that companies often add ions to make the water taste like natural spring water, when in fact, it is often just purified tap water.

St. Olaf is not threatened by water contamination in the immediate future; however, Jackson cites agricultural runoff as a growing problem that the town needs to address.

Although there may be cause for investigation of agricultural runoff in the future, at the present, St. Olafs water supply remains one of the cleanest in Minnesota, and will remain so as long as citizens and students stay aware and active regarding the state of their drinking water.

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