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Solution for trailer park arsenic problem leaves residents cut off from water well

Photo by Brian Hansel

Following the discovery of unsafe arsenic levels at the shared well at Pine View Acres trailer park just outside of the Wadena city limits, park owner David Kleinke was required by law to work with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in order to fix the problem.

On Monday, those residents of the trailer park who owned their lots were disconnected from the well, and two lots had not yet installed wells of their own. Fifteen additional lots are still connected to the shared well, but one of those 15 is in the process of constructing an individual well.

According to the MDH website, arsenic occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, and most people consume trace amounts of arsenic every day in food and water. MDH officials said that the level of arsenic in the Pine View Acres well does not currently pose an immediate threat to the residents, but can cause health problems when consumed for an extended period of time.

If 25 people regularly use a particular well or there are 15 service connections, it is then classified as a public well and therefore under the jurisdiction of MDH, which must ensure along with the owner that the well is returned to safe levels. Kleinke chose to reduce the number of connections to to the well so that it would no longer be subject to regulation under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, MDH Drinking Water Protection Supervisor Bob Smude said.

“He chose to essentially get out of the drinking water business,” Smude said. “He knew that if he could go and get less than 15 service connections, then he would not be a public water supply... and then the Safe Drinking Water Act rules did not apply to the system that he had.”

MDH officials said that there have been five sand point wells installed so far at Pine View Acres, and the cost to construct a sand point well ranges from approximately $700 to $800. Smude said Pine View Acres park was first notified that the arsenic levels at its well was above the MDH threshold of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in December of 2009.  MDH hosted an informational meeting about the arsenic risk for trailer park residents and the owner in August of 2010. An MDH engineer will test each of the new individual wells for arsenic later this month, he said.

Kleinke declined to comment on the situation; following the advice of his attorney.