Letters are going out to St. Paul Regional Water Services customers about recent testing that found higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in the water.
The Environmental Protection Agency requires cities to do public education — such as a letter to residents — or replace service lines when more than 10 percent of water samples show lead levels higher than the acceptable amount of 15 parts per billion. In the latest round of testing in St. Paul, which was done in September, that figure was 13 percent.
Lead is linked to serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.
According to the utility, about 21 percent of homes it serves have lead service lines, and 74 percent do not have lead service lines. For remaining homes, the material used for service lines isn’t known.
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While reports of lead in water are alarming, St. Paul Regional Water Services general manager Patrick Shea said customers should not be too troubled about the current numbers.
“I don’t think people should be concerned. But I do think people should, you know, be proactive in learning what their service line materials are,” he said. “And then following the steps that are in the letter [such as] flushing your water lines, cleaning your aerators, just getting a good understanding about what what the lead concentrations are in your drinking water.”
St. Paul Regional Water Services — which provides water to St. Paul and several surrounding communities — offers customers an online tool to look up whether their service line is lead.
The utility said it continues to replace lead service lines, including a new 10-year project that’s just getting underway. It is also offering homeowners financial assistance if they’d like to replace their lead service lines sooner than a replacement might otherwise happen. And it’s offering corrosion control, which minimizes lead leaching into water from pipes.
The water department recommends several things to reduce exposure to lead in water:
Clean the aerators from faucets once every three months
Let the water run before cooking or drinking.
Use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula
The city is also offering people free lead testing. They can walk into a water services office and get kits for testing.
The city is also hosting a public meeting on replacing water service lines on Tuesday, Nov. 28, from 5-7 p.m. at 1900 Rice St. in St. Paul.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill allocating $240 million toward removing and replacing lead pipes in homes across the state.
Correction (Nov. 21, 2023): A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the date of the upcoming public meeting. The meeting will be held on Nov. 28.