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 breathed in or swallowed, lead can build up in the body. If too much lead enters the body, it can hurt 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. Water leaving the SPRWS water treatment plant does not contain lead; lead enters your water after it leaves the plant.

Lead Free SPRWS

For information about the Lead Free SPRWS service line replacement program, visit our Lead Free SPRWS page.

What is SPRWS doing about lead?

Treatment

Lead can leach from lead service lines or lead solder in the home. To reduce leaching, we treat our water by constantly monitoring and adjusting the pH and alkalinity levels. This process, called corrosion control, creates a protective scale on the inside of the pipe between the water and the lead. Our treatment processes are in strict compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Lead and Copper Rule, and Minnesota Department of Health regulations.

Our lead corrosion control treatment process:

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

Testing

We test our water for lead often. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the testing we do 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 or keep reading to learn more information about them.

Lead Service Line Replacements and Payment Plans

Free Lead Testing for Customers

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 include:

  • Confirming if 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.
  • Testing your water 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, taking proactive steps to reduce your risk:
    • Do not 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 before use
    • Run the water before you drink from any faucet in the house
    • Use cold water for cooking, drinking, and making baby formula - hot water dissolves lead more quickly
    • Clean faucet aerators at least once a month
    • Treat your water using a pitcher or filtration system that is NSF certified for lead

Reducing your Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water Video

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

Lead Service Line Replacements and Payment Plans

We own and maintain the part of the water service in the street right-of-way. We replace that part of the service during some street maintenance projects. The property owner owns and is responsible for maintaining and replacing the service within private property.

We are developing a 10 year plan to replace all lead water service lines in our service area (both the public and private side of the service) at no cost to property owners. The program will begin in full in 2023. For more information, visit our Lead Free SPRWS program page.

Diagram showing the portion of a water service considered private versus the portion owned by SPRWS

 

If you have lead in your service line and do not want to wait for the Lead Free SPRWS program to replace it, you also have an option. Our assessment program for Saint Paul residents allows the costs of such replacement work to be assessed and collected through property taxes. For information on the assessment program view our lead replacement packet (PDF - 471KB) or call the SPRWS engineering division at 651-266-6270.

Free Lead Testing

Most lead services were installed in homes built before 1926. A small percentage of homes built between 1942 and 1947 also 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 interpret the test results. Replacing these lead service lines is the best long-term solution to the lead in drinking water problem.

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 call customer service at 651-266-6350.

If you live outside our service area, a private laboratory can test your household water. Contact the Minnesota Department of Health for a list of certified laboratories.

Minnesota Public Facilities Authority Funding Award Notice

Recipient:                     Saint Paul Regional Water Services

Project:                         Ph 2 private lead line replacement

Award Date:                June 24, 2022

PFA Award Total:        $250,000

Description:     The Project consists of replacing privately-owned lead service lines in the 2022 project areas in Saint Paul and West Saint Paul.

Project Funding:

Entity

Funding Source

PFA Funding ID

Amount

PFA

Drinking Water SRF-Principal Forgiveness Grant

MPFA-DWRF-G-064-FY22

$250,000

Local

Local-other

 

$250,000

Total Project Costs:

 

$500,000

 

More about the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority and its Programs:

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) provides financing and technical assistance to help communities build public infrastructure that protects public health and the environment and promotes economic growth.

Drinking Water Revolving Fund (also known as the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund or DWSRF) :

The DWSRF is supported by federal capitalization grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state matching funds. These funds, together with PFA revenue bond proceeds, are used to make low interest loans to cities throughout the state for drinking water infrastructure projects. Loan repayments revolve back to make new loans, providing a permanent source of low-interest capital to help cities finance drinking water infrastructure projects. Since its start in 1999, Minnesota's DWSRF has awarded more than 433 loans for over $982 million, providing over $188 million in interest savings to local governments and their taxpayers. A portion of federal DWSRF funds are provided as principal forgiveness grants based on established affordability criteria.

Last Edited: December 2, 2022