Lead & Household Water

FAQs

View this info as an interactive presentation

Why is lead 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. Smaller bodies absorb lead more rapidly. Children encounter other possible sources of lead, such as dust and dirt, when they play. Lead in drinking water can be a special problem for infants, whose diets may consist mostly of liquids mixed with water. Because infants are so vulnerable to the effects of lead, pregnant women should also be concerned about the levels of lead in their water.

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 during World War II. Usually, lead gets into your water after it leaves your local treatment plant.

How can I tell if my water has too much lead?

If you are a customer of Saint Paul Regional Water Services, we will test your water for lead for free. Please contact customer service at 651-266-6350 for more information.
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.

What can I do to reduce the lead in my water?

  • Let it Run!
  • Don't drink or cook with water that has collected in your plumbing for more than six hours
  • Clear the water lines by running cold water for 3-5 minutes
  • Run the water before you drink from any faucet in the house
  • Because hot water dissolves lead more quickly, don't cook with or drink hot water directly from the faucet
  • Do not use hot tap water for making baby formula

 

What is Saint Paul Regional Water Services (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 to the pipes by adjusting the pH levels and alkalinity levels.

Our treatment processes are in strict compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Minnesota Department of Health regulations.  Every three years, the MDH requires extensive sampling and testing for lead or copper in our drinking water. We monitor pH levels around the clock.

The testing SPRWS performs is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of the federal Safe Drinking Water program. SPRWS tests our water for lead.

Replace Service Lines and Offer 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.

Application and Info on Assessment Program (PDF - 376KB)

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.

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.

Respond to Complaints

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.

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:

Look Up Whether Your Service Line May Contain Lead (requires SPRWS account number)

Videos:

What to Expect with a Partial Lead Service Line Replacement (4:56)
How to Perform a Scratch Test on Plumbing for Lead (0:44)

Brochures/Publications:

Keeping the Lead Out (632KB)
Water Quality, Delivery, and Lead in Drinking Water (752KB - also available in Hmong, Somali, Karen, and Spanish)
Lead Service Lines and Partial Lead Service Line Replacements (636KB)
Annual SPRWS Water Quality Report (2.48MB)

Info From Other Organizations:

Minnesota Department of Health - Lead
Drinktap.org - Lead in Water
EPA - Actions You Can Take to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water (568 KB)

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.