In addition to tens of thousands of lead water service lines, Minnesota officials estimate that 675,000 homes still have lead in plumbing or fittings. (Adobe Stock)
By Mike Moen: producer, contact
May 24, 2021
ST. PAUL, Minnesota – Minnesota is not the only one dealing with lead pipe issues that affect water quality. A bill that has resurfaced in Congress aims to give all states the opportunity to replace those lines.
On Tuesday, a U.S. House committee heard testimony from what is sometimes known as the “Get the Lead Out Act,” which was reintroduced this month. The bipartisan measure sets a ten-year deadline to replace toxic lead pipes and provides $ 46 billion to help states and utilities achieve that goal.
John Rumpler, director of Environment America’s clean water program, said it’s a problem that runs through many zip codes across the country.
“It knows no partisan boundaries, you know: urban, rural, suburban,” Rumpler said. “These lead pipes are everywhere.”
A 2019 study released by the Minnesota Department of Health estimated that the state still has 100,000 lines of lead services.
Rumpler said the polls indicate broad public support for taking on the issue and believes the bill would complement similar efforts proposed by the Biden administration. He acknowledged that it might be more difficult for some areas to meet the deadline, but suggested that waivers could be granted.
In Wisconsin, Rumpler said Madison is an example of a U.S. city that is already moving forward. Not taking aggressive action, he said, would be a bad service for children experiencing the negative effects of lead exposure on drinking water for health.
“It would be a criminal neglect of our children’s health to sit here for ten years, with millions of lead pipes still on the ground,” Rumpler said.
Research has shown that even low-level lead exposure can affect a child’s brain development. The Minnesota report estimates it could cost up to $ 4 billion to remove lead from drinking water, but says the benefits associated with the improvements are worth twice that amount.