Duluth to continue replacing lead water pipes into next year free of charge

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Duluth has announced its plans to keep replacing lead water lines in town, free of charge for those who still have a lead water service line. “No amount of lead is safe to ingest,” says Minnesota Department of Health official Stephanie Yendell.

The main concern is health and safety. Today, members of City Council, city employees and crews came together to explain their plans.

The City of Duluth applied for a state grant last year of $10 million to do this. Over 7,000 homes and counting have lead water pipes still.

Mayor of Duluth Emily Larson says this is a ten year goal, which correlates with the state goal. She adds they have already replaced the water lines in about 100 homes and there are still around ten they can do before winter.

Due to frozen pipes and snow, crews will not be able to work on homes until the snow melts in the spring. In addition to the replacement lines, the city also plans to replace every water meter in the city.

Cyndi Falconer, the Lead Removal Program Coordinator says that this will also help them to identify what homes still have lead water lines.

She adds if you do have a lead line, expect a letter in the mail. Once you have received that letter, call the city and schedule an appointment to get it replaced. Falconer adds, “if you know you have a lead service line and have not received a letter, give us a call and we will check it out.”

In the meantime, if you do have lead pipes, the city is giving out free water filters with a test kit so you can make sure you are not drinking contaminated water.

Yendell says the most susceptible to fall ill are kids and infants. She says it can affect IQ, kidney and brain function as well overall health. “The best thing for parents to do is to get their kids tested at one or two years-old, this is the most crucial time lead to affect kids.”

The reason they couldn’t do this sooner is because of ownership, says MN Dept. of Health Supervisor of Drinking Water Protection Chad Kolstad. “Where the street meets the curb and up until the residents house is public, but once its on their property its private.”

Kolstad says when Duluth applied for the state grant, they figured out a way to not charge people for the service. He adds Duluth and St. Paul are the only two areas that are making such drastic moves to help this issue.

Mayor Larson says other towns around the state have taken a liking to the way Duluth is handling lead pipes, and are using our methods as a reference point.