Protecting Gem Lake residents from contaminated drinking water

Recent water sampling from private wells in this area has revealed the presence of the chemical 1,4-dioxane above state health risk limits. Where results are above the health-risk limit residents have been provided bottled water as a short-term solution. The agency will work to identify and implement the best long-term solution to providing clean safe drinking water. Municipal wells supplying White Bear Township were tested and 1,4-dioxane was not detected.

Residents within the community of Gem Lake generally rely on private wells for their water supply, with the exception of one residential development in the southern portion of Gem Lake served by the municipal water system from Vadnais Heights. Properties in the business district have municipal water from White Bear Lake available.

Source of contamination remains under investigation

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are actively investigating in this area to determine the impacted area and source of contamination. The study area shown on the figure below is the focus of the investigation. Residents within the study area have received requests from the MDH, MPCA, or a consultant to sample their well. Households with wells that have been sampled with results in excess of the MDH health risk limit (HRL) have been notified and are currently receiving bottled water.

MPCA hosted a virtual public meeting with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on October 14, 2021.

Private well testing

Inside the investigation area. For information about private well sampling, contact Michael Ginsbach (651-757-2329).

Outside of the investigation area. Four Minnesota-certified testing laboratories will analyze water samples from private well owners to test for 1,4-dioxane. The State of Minnesota does not endorse or guarantee any specific laboratory or services any laboratory may provide.

  • Pace Analytical Services, LLC (612-607-1700)
  • Interpoll Laboratories, Inc. (763-786-6020)
  • RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc. (952-456-8470)
  • Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories, Inc. (507-354-8517)

MDH does not issue well advisory letters based on third party results. MPCA would need to resample the well and provide results to MDH before a well advisory would be issued. MPCA and MDH staff are available to answer questions about private testing results.

Map: area of investigation in Gem Lake where water sampling from private wells has revealed the presence of the chemical 1,4-dioxane above state health risk limits.

What is 1,4-dioxane?

The main use of 1,4-dioxane was as a stabilizer for the chlorinated solvent 1,1,1-trichloroethane (often used for industrial purposes). 1,4-dioxane can also be an unintended contaminant in the production of certain products, including some cleaners, detergents, adhesives, inks, automotive fluids, etc.

Groundwater contaminated with 1,4-dioxane is largely caused by the historical use and disposal of chlorinated solvents.

How can I be exposed to 1,4-dioxane? Drinking contaminated water is the primary way people are exposed. Minor sources of exposure are food prepared with contaminated water and incidental ingestion and inhalation of water vapor during showering. Absorption through the skin is also thought to be insignificant.

Refer to this MDH fact sheet for more information: PDF icon 1,4-dioxane in private wells - Gem Lake and the White Bear area