Over $200 million in federal funds to Minnesota to replace lead water pipes


Minnesota cities and local water services will accelerate the removal of underground water pipes this year with a portion of $15 billion in funding over the next five years provided by the infrastructure bill. bipartisan that Congress and President Joe Biden enacted in November.

Plumbing lines that supply water to 10 million American homes – about 7% of all residential areas are provided by community water services – endanger the health of the residents who use that water.

Support for removing lead from drinking water has increased since 2014, when improper water treatment damaged city pipes and released lead into the Flint, Mich., water system.

Under the new federal program, Minnesota is expected to receive $43 million a year for the next five years, Jeff Freeman, executive director of the state’s Public Facility Administration, said last week. . Minnesota Authority for Water Project Grants and Loans.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimated in 2019 that 100,000 lead supply lines remain in the state, bringing drinking water to Minnesotans who may not suspect their water may be contaminated with lead. But the Natural Resources Defense Council said in July that the Health Department’s estimate included only part of the state, and the board’s 2021 survey estimated Minnesota to have 260,000 or more lead lines, putting The state has the 10th highest number of lead pipelines in the nation. .


St. Paul and 13 surrounding suburbs have up to 26,600 privately owned service lines and 9,000 additional lines under public ownership, St. Paul reported last week. It cost an estimated $223 million to replace all of those streets, plus an additional $15 million for associated street improvements.

The Regional Water Commission of St. Paul voted on Tuesday to develop a plan to replace all water pipes with lead in 10 years. Those pipes will be swapped for copper or polyethylene lines.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to eliminate a serious health risk, Commissioner Chris Tolbert said ahead of the vote.

Federal grants administered by state agencies could cover 10 percent of the area’s pipeline replacement costs, said Dave Wagner, director of the water service’s engineering division. He estimates the service will receive about $5 million a year in funding and $5 million annually in a state-managed loan over the next five years for the project. Water prices may have to increase to partially offset the cost.


Replacing private lead plumbing would make property owners in the St. Paul spends an average of $6,000, said water service general manager Pat Shea. Those property owners will likely be required to replace lead pipes and plumbing fixtures, but water service board members said they plan to use some federal funds to help property owners with those costs.

City of St. Paul’s has allowed water customers to pay for lead pipe replacements through property taxes for more than 20 years, but only 5% to 10% of property owners exercise that option.

Public agencies will allow municipalities to decide how federal funds are spent on private subsidies, said Chad Kolstad, director of the Health Ministry’s drinking water fund. But the law may need to be changed to allow subsidies.

However, removing lead pipes will increase the home’s value, the Department of Health reports. It cites a 2017 study that found money invested in mitigating lead lead to a return of $2.60 for every $1 spent.

The cost of replacing all leading service lines nationwide can range from $28 billion to $47 billion, putting the $15 billion approved to date far below that number. But the infrastructure bill “provides unprecedented assistance to the states… to begin this process,” the Brookings Institution reported.


According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead can leach into water from pipes and there is no safe level of lead exposure.

The state Department of Health says children are most vulnerable to the health effects of lead exposure because their brains and behavior are developing. “For infants and children, lead exposure can cause significant damage to the brain, nervous system, red blood cells and kidneys,” the department said.

Municipal plumbing is a significant contributor to the lead in drinking water, but an even more important factor is lead leaching from plumbing installations, often caused by Control property owner.

The Department of Health estimates the cost of removing all lead pipes and fixtures in Minnesota plumbing will be $1.5 billion to $4.12 billion over 20 years. But it says benefits of removing lead from water include “improved population intelligence and IQ (leading to increased lifetime productivity, income and taxes).” It projects a range of benefits from $4.24 billion to $8.47 billion over 20 years. Therefore, money spent to reduce lead in drinking water would be expected to yield a return of at least twice the amount invested.


Water Service St. Paul has replaced lead lines for over 25 years, but only about 400 lines a year, and all are protected.

Most service lines in St.

The Department of Health says most of the major service lines in Minnesota are located in the Twin Cities and Duluth. It cited reports estimating 49,000 such lines in Minneapolis and 5,000 in Duluth.

But Kolstad said several other Minnesota cities have more than 1,000 navigation service routes.

He said minority and low-income communities will be prioritized for funding because their residents are more likely to be exposed to sources of lead. Over $200 million in federal funds to Minnesota to replace lead water pipes

Yasmin Harisha

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