What is lead and why is it a problem?

Lead is a common metal found in air, soil, household dust, and water. It is also found in consumer products, some types of food, pottery, pewter and lead-based paint. If inhaled or swallowed, lead can build up in the body. If too much lead enters the body, it can damage the brain, nervous system, red blood cells, and kidneys. Children, infants, and pregnant women are at greater risk.

How does lead get into household water?

The most likely sources of lead in your household water are lead pipes, lead solder, or brass fixtures in your plumbing. Lead water services were installed in Saint Paul homes built before 1926 and in some homes built between 1942 and 1947. Usually, lead gets into your water after it leaves your local treatment plant.

 Click here to view an interactive presentation about lead and drinking water 

What can I do to reduce lead in my water?

The best way to reduce lead is to remove lead water service lines and replace them with copper.
See Lead Service Line Replacements and Payment Plans below for more information.

Other actions you can take:

  • Confirm whether you have a lead service by looking up your address in our service material map, calling SPRWS engineering at 651-266-6270, or performing a "scratch test" on the pipes leading to your water meter.
  • Have your water tested for lead for free by picking up and returning a collection bottle from our customer service staff at 1900 Rice Street.
  • If you have a lead service, consider replacing it. We offer a voluntary assessment program for Saint Paul residents that allows for the costs of lead service replacement to be collected through property taxes.
  • If you have a lead service and are unable to replace it due to financial or other reasons, take proactive steps to reduce your risk:
    • Don't drink or cook with water that has collected in your plumbing for more than six hours
    • Clear water lines by running cold water for 3-5 minutes
    • Run the water before you drink from any faucet in the house
    • Use cold water for cooking, drinking, making baby formula - hot water dissolves lead more quickly
    • Clean faucet aerators at least once per month
    • Treat your water using a pitcher or filtration system that is NSF certified for lead

The video below provides more information about reducing your exposure to lead in drinking water:

If you would like to know more about the testing and monitoring of our drinking water, please contact the SPRWS water quality lab at 651-266-1635

What is SPRWS doing about lead?

Treatment

To reduce leaching of lead from lead service lines or lead solder in the home, we treat our water to produce a small amount of scale on pipes by constantly monitoring and adjusting the pH and alkalinity levels. Our treatment processes are in strict compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Lead and Copper Rule, and Minnesota Department of Health regulations.

Specifically, the lead corrosion control treatment consists of:

  • Adding lime and sodium hydroxide to the water to increase the water’s pH levels so that the water is minimally corrosive to lead
  • Adding chlorine as a disinfectant for added protection
  • These two water chemistry adjustments work together to form a protective film covering surfaces containing lead which minimizes how much lead can enter the water
  • We then monitor the effectiveness of this strategy per regulations

Testing

We test our water for lead frequently. The testing we perform is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of the federal Safe Drinking Water program.

Investigating Complaints

We take all water quality complaints and issues seriously. If you are experiencing an issue, contact us at 651-266-6350.

We respond to customer complaints about water quality, such as colored water or taste and odor concerns. We will flush the system in problem areas and test the water if there are taste and odor or health complaints.

 

The following items have their own sections below. Click the links to be taken to more information about them.

Lead Service Line Replacements and Payment Plans

2021 Grants for Lead Service Line Replacements

Free Lead Testing for Customers

Lead Service Line Replacements and Payment Plans

We own and maintain the portion of the water service in the street right of way and we replace that portion of the service in conjunction with street maintenance projects.

The property owner owns and is responsible for maintenance and replacement of the service within private property. We offer an assessment program for Saint Paul residents that allows for the costs of such replacement work to be assessed and collected through property taxes. Contact the SPRWS engineering division at 651-266-6270 for information on this voluntary assessment program.

For more information and a payment plan application see our lead replacement packet (PDF - 1.39MB).

Grant Money is Available for Lead Service Line Replacements in 2021

Grant money is available for all 2021 lead service line replacements.

Want to find out more? Contact us at 651-266-6270 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. or email us.

If a property owner outside a street maintenance project elects to replace their portion of the lead service line, we will replace the portion within the right of way at no cost to the property owner.

To find out what material is used in your water service line, you can look up your address on our service material map or call us at 651-266-6270.

Free Lead Testing

Most lead services were installed in homes built prior to 1926. There were also a small percentage of homes built between 1942 and 1947 that have lead service lines. These homes are at higher risk of lead leaching from the pipes. We offer free lead testing for these customers and help them to interpret the results of their tests. Eliminating these lead service lines is the best long-term solution to the problem of lead in drinking water.

Lead testing kits are available for customers at the customer service desk at 1900 Rice St., Saint Paul MN, 55113; Monday - Friday from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm. For more information contact customer service at 651-266-6350.

 

You can have your household water tested by a private laboratory if you live outside our service area. Contact the Minnesota Department of Health for a list of certified laboratories.

Other Resources

For more information on lead in drinking water, lead service lines and what you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water, please see these additional resources:

Last Edited: October 12, 2021