Aluminum air pipes

Funding permitting, St. Paul Regional Water will replace lead pipes in 26,000 homes over the next 10 years

Over the next few weeks, some 600 St. Paul homeowners will receive a letter in the mail, a knock on their door and an email or two urging them to allow their water utility to remove their lead pipes.

This is a soft launch of a massive, expensive undertaking that will fix a century-old problem. St. Paul’s Regional Water Utilities hopes to replace lead water pipes in as many as 26,000 homes in the Metro East over the next 10 years, the vast majority of them in St. Paul, but they will need $223 million to do so.

Based on their best estimates, they will be $100 million short unless new funding sources emerge.

Nonetheless, some grant dollars have already begun to trickle in piecemeal, thanks in part to the US federal bailout, which will soon support $14.5 million in lead pipe replacements on private properties across the capital. These funds will equip the first 2,000 to 2,500 homes in St. Paul with new pipes. The hope is that more state and federal money will follow.

The federal government banned the use of lead pipes in new plumbing systems in 1986, but up to 10 million homes nationwide are still connected to older lead service lines.

“President Joe Biden has called for the removal of 100% of lead utility lines across the country,” Bruno Pigott, deputy deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, said during a meeting. of a virtual press conference on Monday with the senses. Amy Klobuchar and Tina. Smith, U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert.

In St. Paul, “60% of those lead pipes are in areas of concentrated poverty,” Tolbert said. “We didn’t know how to handle this until… the US bailout. It was a game changer for us. We all know there is no safe level of lead in our water.

COMPETITIVE PROCESS

Through the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the State of Minnesota has access to more than $200 million to spend on lead phase-out statewide over the next five next few years, but applying will likely be a competitive process.

Lead, a common but undesirable contaminant in drinking water, is found in homes in St. Paul built before 1926 and in some homes built between 1942 and 1947. Beyond St. Paul, older towns such as Minneapolis and Duluth are known hotspots for lead plumbing, but finding lead water pipes in the suburbs is not out of the question.

In the East St. Paul Regional Water Subway Service Area, over 90% of homes that still contain lead water pipes are located in St. Paul, with a “handful” in West St. Paul and a few -unes in Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, said project manager Rich Hibbard.

“We just don’t have a very good idea of ​​the overall needs of the state of Minnesota,” Patrick Shea, general manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services, said in an interview. “Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth are (needs established), but we don’t know exactly what some of the smaller utilities will need.”

2,600 DWELLINGS PER YEAR, IN 100 AREAS

Much of the focus is on pipelines located on private properties, and convincing landowners to give their consent will be essential. Shea stressed that replacement drafts will not be determined by lottery or complaint-based.

In St. Paul, the first year of service, worth about $6,000 per property, will be offered free to 600 or more homeowners, supported by $4 million in federal ARP funds allocated last week by the council Municipality of Saint-Paul. These homes are located on St. Paul Streets already in line for road reconstruction and other roadwork this year, and they will be something of a pilot project for a larger 10-year plan.

Going forward, work will not necessarily be limited to areas where major road works are already planned, although this is one of many considerations.

In March, the St. Paul Regional Water Services Board of Directors authorized a plenary press around lead pipe replacement over the next decade. The goal is to divide St. Paul and the utility’s overall service area into 100 zones, each covering approximately 260 homes, and replace lead pipes on an average of 2,600 homes per year, or 10 areas per year. , the first years beginning. a bit slower as ramp up.

To prioritize areas, St. Paul Regional Water Services will spend the next six to eight months working with an as yet undetermined consultant. The overall goal is to focus first on vulnerable populations most affected by lead exposure, such as families with young children, multi-family units, areas with high lead concentrations, and areas where lead is would be profitable to coordinate with street repairs.

9,000 PUBLIC LINES MUST ALSO BE REPLACED

If you own a home in St. Paul, a water line probably runs from your basement water meter to a stop barrier on your sidewalk, which you all own and usually need to maintain. yourself. From the stop gate, another line – this one belonging to the public sector – meanders to the main water pipe in the center of your street.

St. Paul’s Regional Water Utilities have identified some 20,000 homes with lead water pipes and another 6,000 homes with unknown materials that are likely candidates for pipe replacement.

St. Paul Regional Water Services hopes to remove and replace lead water pipes from up to 26,000 homes by 2032, or about 2,600 per year for 10 years. (Courtesy of St. Paul Regional Water Utilities)

For about 25 years or more, the utility has been gradually replacing the public lead pipes that connect the shut-off valve to the water main and spending an average of $2-3 million a year to do so. That still leaves 9,000 of those public lines to go. Getting rid of it at the current rate would take another 34 years.

Accelerating this to do so within the 10-year plan window will likely require an increase in water rates of around 6% over the next decade.

“If no additional funding for the public side is found, then over the next 10 years we could use a 6% increase in tariffs to get it out,” said Racquel Vaske, deputy general manager of regional services at St. Paul’s water. “Technically you could use some of the grants available for the public side, but we want to prioritize the private side because there are no other options.”

More information, including a link to a interactive map that will tell you if there is lead in your pipesis online at tinyurl.com/STPLeadPipe22. To receive text or email alerts on lead line replacements in your area, sign up for StPaul.gov/water.

A map of service replacements in 2022 for St. Paul Regional Water Services' plan to replace lead pipes.
St. Paul Regional Water Services hopes to remove and replace lead water pipes from up to 26,000 homes by 2032, or about 2,600 per year for 10 years. More than 90% of these houses are in Saint-Paul. During the first year, (Courtesy of St. Paul Regional Water Services)