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Proposal seeks $300 million to replace all Minnesota’s lead water service lines by 2032

The Department of Health estimates there are about 100,000 water service lines in the state leaching lead into the drinking water flowing through them.

Coming in contact with lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system. In children, lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems.

“No amount of exposure to lead is safe,” said Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Mpls), who sponsors a bill that would require the Health Department to establish a program to replace all lead drinking water service lines in the state by 2032.

To do this, the department would distribute $30 million each year — received through appropriation bonds — from now until 2032 through grants to municipalities to do the upgrades.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee approved HF4115, as amended, 17-0 Wednesday and sent it to the House Capital Investment Committee.

The two most significant contributors of lead in drinking water are municipality owned lead-lined service lines and the leaded lines connecting those pipes to private households.

Grants would be to replace both contamination sources, Jordan said.

Municipalities would also have to develop plans to contact private residents about getting their drinking water tested and replace their lead pipes if needed and at no cost.

To that end, the bill would require that at least 70% of grant funds be used for:

  • removing privately owned portions of lead drinking water service lines;
  • installing privately owned portions of drinking water service lines; or
  • repaying debt incurred to remove or replace privately owned portions of lead drinking water service lines.

According to the department, homes built before 1940 will likely have lead service lines that connect them to public water, and plumbing systems built before 1986 may have lead parts.

Pipestone Mayor Myron Koets said his town has about 160 square blocks of homes that, due to their age, would likely have lead pipes.

Getting state money into the hands of private households to do their portion of an upgrade is critical, Koets said, as most of his residents could not afford the estimated $3,000 cost to do the work.

Learning which parts of the state have the greatest problems with lead-contaminated drinking water is important to enable the Health Department to distribute grant monies most effectively, Jordan said.

To that end, the bill would appropriate $10 million in fiscal year 2023 to establish a grant program to provide financial assistance to municipalities for producing an inventory of publicly and privately owned lead service lines within their jurisdiction.

Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) sponsors the companion, SF1421, which awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

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