St. Paul expands efforts to replace lead water lines

A large crane-like machine sits on a road.
St. Paul Regional Water Service is gearing up for big push to remove lead pipes from thousands of residential service connections using federal infrastructure money. It promoted the effort on Tuesday at a home in St. Paul.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

About 26,000 homes in St. Paul have lead pipes bringing in water from the main, and city officials are stepping up efforts to replace them.

They’re using $200 million from the federal infrastructure law to eliminate lead service lines over the next 10 years.

“This is not complicated,” said Mayor Melvin Carter on Tuesday. “We don't want people to have lead poisoning.”

Work has been underway for years to replace the portion of lead service lines that are owned by the water utility — from the water main to the sidewalk, in many cases. The rest has usually been the responsibility of the property owner.

Pipes and wire displayed on a table.
About 26,000 homes in St. Paul have lead pipes bringing in water from the street, and city officials are stepping up efforts to replace them.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

The latest round of federal money will pay the entire cost of removing lead pipes, rather than requiring homeowners to spend between $6,000 and $8,000 for the portion of pipe that is on their property, Carter said.

“It's just not good enough for children to grow up drinking lead in their water because their parents couldn't afford clean water," Carter said.

The city has already completed work on about 70 homes this year. Next year it hopes to do 1,500.

Lead is a poisonous metal that can cause long-term health and behavioral problems, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. It is especially dangerous for children’s developing brains. It was commonly used in plumbing many years ago before being replaced by other materials such as copper.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.