Could the Flint water crisis happen here?

Flint water crisis
Louis Singleton receives water filters, bottled water and a test kit from Michigan National Guard Spc. Joe Weaver as clean water supplies are distributed to residents, Thursday in Flint, Mich.
Paul Sancya | AP

As fallout from the water crisis in Flint, Mich., continues this week, many are asking whether the same situation could happen in the Twin Cities.

There are lead pipes feeding water to tens of thousands of homes in the Twin Cities, but local officials say a water crisis like that in Flint, Mich., is highly unlikely.

High levels of lead have been detected in Flint's water since officials switched from the Detroit municipal system to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure.

Jim Bode is a water quality manager in St. Paul, which provides water to nearly half a million people in the east metro area. He says the water utility adds chemicals to the water supply that help protect people from lead.

"We're confident, and as long as we operate both our water treatment plant and our distribution of water out in the system, we're confident that we're going the best job and that the lead numbers are quite low in our system," Bode told MPR News host Cathy Wurzer.

Bode says as many as 14,000 local homes and businesses may have lead pipes connecting them to a water main. Lead was phased out in 1930, and officials hope to eventually eliminate all the lead connections in the system.

For a national perspective, Robert Glennon, the author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It," and Brett Walton, who reports for the online water website, Circle of Blue, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to discuss the country's aging and deteriorating water infrastructure. Listen to "What can be done to prevent another water crisis like Flint, Mich.?" above.

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