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Lead found in three taps at Lino Lakes prison, DOC outlines water management plan

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The state’s Department of Corrections has detected lead in water from three of 10 faucets at Lino Lakes prison, and now says it will develop a comprehensive water management plan for its facilities.

Staff and incarcerated people at Lino Lakes were informed Tuesday of the lead amounts, which exceeded the EPA’s action level of 15 parts of lead per billion, according to a DOC news release.

The three faucets are in bathrooms in programming buildings. Those faucets have been “secured” and are not in living areas or staff break areas, the DOC said in the release.

The lead amounts were “below the level that would indicate an immediate health concern,” the DOC said. The department is providing bottled water to inmates and staff at the prison while more comprehensive testing takes place.

The department said this was routine testing at Lino Lakes, separate from the additional water tests requested for Stillwater prison following a protest by inmates objecting to conditions that included murky drinking water.

On Sept. 3, more than 100 Stillwater inmates protested over conditions, including lack of air conditioning and poor water quality. The protesters were also upset that during Labor Day weekend they had little time outside their cells to shower, call their families and socialize, which the DOC said was due to staffing shortages.

A week later the DOC ordered additional water testing. Sediment in the facility’s well water can at times affect the clarity and give it a reddish-brown tint, DOC spokesman Andy Skoogman said earlier this month.

Preliminary results of the water testing have shown no immediate risk with the drinking water, the DOC said.

Minnesota Department of Health staff collected water from 81 tap sites, which included living units, kitchen, programming areas and staff areas according to the DOC. A report on the water quality is expected to be submitted later this week.

DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said he has directed the department to develop and implement comprehensive water testing protocol within 45 days.

Schnell said aging infrastructure is a challenge “across the state,” and that investments are needed to address it.

He also listed three steps the department will take, including:

  • Hiring a contractor within four weeks to develop a water management plan at each facility.
  • Publicly posting the Department of Health’s consumer confidence reports for water quality for facilities on the DOC’s website by the end of Wednesday.
  • Hiring an industrial hygienist to focus on water and other environmental health concerns.



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Traffic disrupted but no injuries reported after BNSF freight train derails near Big Lake, Minn.

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A train derailment near Big Lake is disrupting traffic and slowing the train company’s main line Saturday.

According to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, the BNSF train was carrying consumer goods when it derailed around 3:15 a.m. At least 15 rail cars were involved, blocking the crossing at 172nd Street NW. between 197th Avenue and County Rd. 14.

A BNSF representative confirmed the derailment and said crews were working “as quickly and safely as possible” to clear the wreckage.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation. No injuries have been reported, and the Sheriff’s Office said there was no threat to the public. It’s unclear what goods the train carried, or when crews expected to clear the wreckage.

A broken rail track caused a BNSF train derailment in Raymond, Minn., last year, spilling ethanol and corn syrup, which caught fire. Hundreds living nearby were forced to evacuate. Estimates at that time suggested repairing damage to railroad tracks and equipment at $1.9 million. The environmental cleanup was estimated to cost $1.6 million.



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The VA wants your help picking a name for a new clinic for female veterans

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Blueprints for the new Women’s Clinic at the Minneapolis VA have almost everything.

The new clinic space will be airy and accessible, with room for a dizzying array of veteran health services, from lactation consultation to cancer screenings. After years of planning, the groundbreaking is set for September at the Veterans Affairs Health Center.

All the clinic needs now is a name.

The VA is hoping for the public’s help on that one.

If you know a veteran, living or deceased, who served her country and her community, the VA is accepting nominations until Oct. 30.

The naming committee will be looking for veterans who were honorably discharged and who had a connection to the Minneapolis VA or the Midwest region it serves.

Maybe the honor will go to a towering figure from state history. Maybe it will go to a living legend like 101-year-old World War II veteran Marion Peck of Le Sueur, a finalist for the 2024 SilverSneakers Member of the Year award. We’ll find out if she wins on July 22.

“She did squats for me, the first time I met her,” said Dr. Alisa Duran, VA women’s health medical director. “With our aging veterans, you always do sort of a ‘get up and go’ evaluation and look at how they walk and ask about falls. And she’s like, ‘Watch this!’… We see a lot of our veterans out in the community doing really cool things.”

Women are the fastest-growing group within the VA — the number of women veterans has tripled since 2001. The Minneapolis VA Health Care System served more than 7,000 women veterans last year alone. But the clinic space that greeted them was less than they deserved.

The current Women’s Clinic sits in an old ICU deep inside the sprawling Minneapolis campus. Veterans had to thread through a series of corridors, waiting rooms and unrelated departments to reach the clinic.

Beyond an inconvenience, not having direct access to care could be a painful barrier for patients dealing with service-related trauma. One out of every three women veterans reports that they experienced sexual harassment or assault during their time in the military. The new facility will allow them to walk in directly from the parking lot, without facing the crowds inside the larger complex.

A great deal of thought will go into the new facility. The new mammogram suites will allow veterans to control the compression of a procedure that can trigger anxiety. The Women’s Clinic treats women still in their childbearing years, women going through menopause, all the way up to the Greatest Generation, still going strong at 101 like Marion Peck.

“I loved the Navy,” Peck said during a recent VA interview about her SilverSneakers competition. “If they’d take a 101-year-old I’d be on an aircraft carrier tomorrow.”

For veterans who were exposed to toxic environments like burn pits during their service, the clinic is expanding cancer screenings for at-risk groups. The new clinic space will have room for classrooms and support groups to meet. There will be social workers and specialists and counselors on hand to help new mothers — veterans can be at higher risk of postpartum depression — through the first year.

A clinic this good is going to need a good name.

“We wanted this new clinic space to represent our women veterans,” Duran said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to name it in honor of one of our female veterans.”

The name that goes above the clinic door won’t necessarily be the veteran with the highest rank or highest profile. The committee that chooses the name will include a number of women veterans, and they know the qualities they’re looking for.

The woman whose name goes on the building will be someone whose life is an example of “service beyond their years of military service,” said Emma O’Brien, women veterans program manager. “Of course they’ll want to know about what accolades they had while they were on military duty, but also how they’ve continued to serve their community beyond that.”

Anyone who follows the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s annual snowplow naming contest knows how much Minnesotans enjoy naming things.

Last year, the St. Cloud VA Healthcare system set out to rename a hallway in honor of one of central Minnesota’s women veterans. They received two dozen nominations. The honor went to the late Paynesville native Winnifred “Winnie” Galbraith, who served in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII and went on to long years of service with American Legion posts in Little Falls and Waite Park.

The first nomination came in hours after the VA put out the call.

“This went out yesterday and I received one yesterday afternoon. They were ready,” O’Brien said. “I’m not surprised. I’ve had several people, male and female veterans, tell me, ‘You should name the new clinic after so-and-so.’ Everyone has someone they think it should be named after.”

Construction is expected to begin in September and the new clinic should open in 2026. If you know a good name for the new clinic, you can download the nomination form at va.gov/minneapolis-health-care/health-services/women-veteran-care.

If Marion Peck’s name doesn’t end up on the building, maybe we can get a statue of her out front, in silver sneakers.



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SWAT standoff in Edina ends peacefully

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A four-hour standoff Saturday morning between a suspect and a SWAT team in a residential area in Edina ended peacefully, authorities said.

According to a news release from the Edina Police Department, officers were sent to a disturbance on the 5100 block of Schaefer Road at about 8 a.m. After learning the suspect could be armed and dangerous, they shut down the area and called in the SWAT team and negotiators “out of abundance of caution.”

After negotiations with Edina police, the subject peacefully surrendered at 12:30 p.m. Several agencies assisted in the incident, which remains under investigation.



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