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MDH: Stillwater Prison water poses no health risks, but water management plan needs to be implemented

MDH says samples of Stillwater Prison water show no health risks
MDH says samples of Stillwater Prison water show no health risks 00:19

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health announced Wednesday that an analysis of water samples collected from Stillwater Prison shows the water is safe to drink.

MDH says it conducted 465 tests on samples taken from several locations, including from cells in each of the facility's blocks, the kitchen, common areas, rec areas, and from other points inside and outside of the building. Samples were also taken from the well that serves the facility, and water processed before it enters the facility. 

The samples were tested for bacteria, copper, iron, lead, manganese, total suspended solids, and even pesticides.

"The good news is that treated water coming into the facility and at all sampled locations meets federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards," said MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff. "However, we did note some instances of discolored water, build-up of minerals from water on fixtures and iron staining on some sinks. We're recommending a series of actions for DOC that should help address these issues."

Taps primarily used for hot water, like showers, were found to be the common source of discolored water. MDH recommends the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) should have the facility's fixtures and aerators cleaned, and that a flush is conducted of the facility's plumbing. It also recommends that the DOC should develop a written water management plan.

The DOC announced Tuesday that they plan to develop a comprehensive water management protocol plan following allegations of poor water quality at multiple facilities.

DOC's plan

  • Developing, implementing, and initiating a comprehensive water testing protocol at all DOC correctional facilities within the next 45 days.
  • Implementing a contracting procedure to hire a qualified contractor within four weeks to develop a water management plan for each DOC correctional facility starting with Lino Lakes and Stillwater.
  • Posting the Minnesota Department of Health Consumer Confidence Reports pertaining to water quality for each DOC correctional facility on the DOC's public website on or before the end of the day on Wednesday.
  • Establish, recruit, and hire an Industrial Hygienist position to give exclusive focus to water, air, and other environmental health concerns.


This announcement comes after Stillwater Prison inmates protested conditions by refusing to return to their cells earlier this month. 

"They said that they had to use things like their socks to filter the water, and if they washed their clothes at certain times their clothes turned brown," said Marvina Haynes, sister of inmate Marvin Haynes.


Despite concerns from inmates and their family members, the DOC says there's been no reports of water-related illnesses among staff or inmates.

RELATED: More extensive water testing ordered at Stillwater prison following protests

Vava Kuaddafi served a life sentence that ended in 2014 at the Stillwater facility and believes otherwise. He showed WCCO a rash on his back that he believes is from decades of showering with the water at the Stillwater facility.

These reports sparked backlash from the public, resulting in more protests, thus triggering the DOC to look more deeply into solutions for how to improve the water quality. 

"Safe water is essential to the health and well-being of our staff and people we serve," said Paul Schnell, DOC commissioner. "We are prioritizing the development and implementation of comprehensive water management plans for all Department of Corrections' facilities."     

Updates on Stillwater, Lino Lakes facilities 

Schnell asked the Minnesota Department of Health to conduct additional water testing at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater last week. 


While MDH found no health risks from Stillwater Prison's drinking water, it's a different story at the Lino Lakes facility.

Water samples collected at the facility showed three of the 10 faucets had lead content that exceeded EPA levels. The water samples containing lead came from bathroom taps in programming areas. Staff and inmates were alerted to these findings on Tuesday morning. 

Health officials say that the consumption of lead at any level should be avoided. Therefore, the DOC has been providing staff and incarcerated population with bottled water while additional water testing is underway. 

According to a press release, no water-related illnesses among staff or inmates at Lino Lakes have been reported at this time.

"Aging infrastructure is a challenge across our state and will continue to pose a risk without recognition and investments," said Schnell.

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