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Clean, safe drinking water is Priority No. 1

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Minnesotans in our region are resourceful and independent, but for some problems we face as a community, that can-do attitude isn't always enough. We currently find ourselves facing one such problem: ensuring the residents of Carlton County have clean, safe drinking water now and into the future. With so many private drinking water wells in our region, clean drinking water can be a difficult issue to monitor, but thanks to the work of many at the local and state level we have more than enough information to act.

It has become clear that there is an issue regarding arsenic that is facing a number of private wells used for drinking water in Carlton County, specifically in the area west of Carlton. Some wells have been found to have higher than normal levels of arsenic. While arsenic is naturally occurring, and often found at some level in drinking water from a groundwater source, it is important to closely monitor safe arsenic levels and find solutions to mitigate problems when they arise.

As your state legislators, we have been working with state and community leaders to make sure that our neighbors with critical drinking water contamination problems are our top priority when it comes to installing clean drinking water infrastructure. Right now, we are working with our colleagues at the legislature on both sides of the aisle to make sure we are addressing the clean drinking water needs of residents who depend on private wells.

To assist with addressing issues in Twin Lakes Township's private wells, including along Schmitz Road, the city of Carlton and Township formed a Joint Water Board in 2013. The board's goal is to extend good, safe reliable water to the residents in the township from the city. The board believes working together with a unified goal of addressing this critical water issue, we can ensure the health and wellbeing of our residents.

One solution to this problem can be reached through the construction of a pipeline that connects the municipal water source in Carlton with the rural residents living near Highway 210 going west toward the Olsonville community as part of a regional water system. We know there are issues with some of the wells in this area, and we are still working with local and state officials to discover whether or not this problem is contained to a narrow area or has broader impact.

Because of the cost of the project to complete this pipeline, the sale of infrastructure bonds is necessary to finance the project. There were funds to speed the completion of this project in the 2016 Bonding Bill which failed to pass on the last night of session, as it was held at the Speaker's desk.

A significant portion of the bonding bill goes toward the funding of the Public Facilities Authority (PFA) to help finance local communities, like Carlton, when they embark on constructing water infrastructure projects. The 2016 Bonding Bill included $57 million in PFA bonds, and would help them get to this project as quickly as possible because of the health urgency. Currently the Carlton project is high on the PFA priority list, but the agency needs financing. Without the assistance of matching funds from the PFA, this project is too expensive for our local tax base, so the support from the bonding bill is essential.

We know this is a critical time for lawmakers in the majority, as they craft their final budget proposals. We will be pushing House bonding leaders hard to introduce a robust bonding bill that includes adequate funding for PFA projects in the final weeks of this 2017 legislative session. A robust bonding bill is necessary to guarantee the health, safety and quality of life our neighbors expect and depend on.

If you and your family own a private drinking water well, and you want to know more about the health and safety of your drinking water, there are a few steps you can take. You can learn more about naturally occurring arsenic in Minnesota well water, what's safe, and what's not, by checking out the Minnesota Department of Health's arsenic website: www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/wells/waterquality/arsenic.html#how .

There you'll find contact info and details about testing your wells. You can contact the well testing section of the Minnesota Department of Health to learn more about testing your water at 651-201-4600 or 800-383-9808 or emailing health.wells@state.mn.us

You can also contact Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) about the need for a statewide bonding bill to meet our infrastructure needs. Rep. Urdahl is the chair of the House Capital Investment committee that writes all bonding bills. He needs to hear from Minnesotans that they want these infrastructure projects completed now. Call him at 651-296-4344 or email ep.dean.urdahl@house.mn and tell him that clean, safe, healthy water is important to you.

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