Private property owners with water wells on their lands would be required to test them for bacteria, nitrate and other potentially harmful contaminants before selling or transferring their property if the legislation is approved. Legislators did little with the water testing bill when it was introduced earlier this year but state Rep. Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield, the bill’s chief author, said it has a “good chance” of advancing during the Minnesota Legislature regular session, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 5.
At least one state advisory group, the Minnesota Clean Water Council, has endorsed the testing requirement as well.
Rep. Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield
“When you look at the health and welfare of buyers and sellers, I think it’s an important thing to do,” Victoria Reinhardt, a member of the council, said at a meeting in August.
Researchers and state officials pushing for the testing mandate say it would help to address shortcomings in Minnesota’s water quality monitoring efforts, which focus mostly on public drinking water systems, and could even protect consumer health. But critics have by turns called it misguided and burdensome.
“It’s the mandating of the activity we’re opposed to,” Minnesota Association of Realtors CEO Chris Galler said in a recent interview.
“There’s a lot of contingencies in the system already for folks,” Galler said later. “We don’t see it necessary to add (testing) to the real estate transaction.”
At least one county in Minnesota, Dakota County, requires water well tests as part of the homebuying process. Several volunteer networks of landowners in the state have also formed over the years to monitor nitrate levels in private groundwater supplies. (High nitrate levels have been linked to health issues in infant children.)
Banks, meanwhile, often make water well tests a condition of home sales they finance. But water quality tests, which are carried out by state-accredited laboratories, are required by Minnesota law only for newly drilled wells. Other states approach well testing similarly with at least one exception: New Jersey, which requires home buyers or sellers to test untreated wells during real estate transactions.
It’s left to Minnesota well owners, then, to test their water annually for coliform bacteria and once every other year for nitrate as the Minnesota Department of Health recommends. And while researchers and industry groups both say that plenty of well water testing happens in Minnesota already, what’s missing,…