Jun 23, 2021

High Lead Levels Discovered in Old Duluth, Minnesota, Homes' Drinking Water

There are approximately 28,000 water customers in Duluth and there are 4,600 city-owned lead service lines.


Testing in Duluth, Minnesota, found elevated lead levels in some homes built before 1930.

Duluth tested lead levels in drinking water in 102 homes this spring. 30 had lead levels above the current EPA limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb), and 49 homes were at levels above 10 ppb. Homeowners with lead service lines will be contacted by the city. 

According to The Star Tribune, officials are asking residents who have or may have lead service lines to run a faucet for a few minutes every morning or buy a filter.

There are approximately 28,000 water customers in Duluth and there are 4,600 city-owned lead service lines and at least as many private lead service lines, according to Jim Benning, the city's director public works and utilities in a news conference, reported The Star Tribune. 

According to Benning, a new EPA standard that will be enforced starting in 2024 will set 10 ppb as the trigger level, which would mandate the city add more chemicals to its water supply.

"We are currently in full compliance with EPA and state regulations," said Benning. "The quality of the drinking water has not changed."

Mayor Emily Larson said recent testing provided "information that would put us out of future compliance" when the EPA lowers its maximum lead threshold in a few years, reported The Star Tribune.

The average cost of replacing the public and private connections is $8,000 and the city is anticipating needing $40 million to completely remove all lead service lines. Benning asked the mayor of Duluth to consider using some of the city's $58 million in American Rescue Plan money toward lead service line replacement.

According to census figures, 43% of Duluth homes (17,000 properties) were built before 1939, reported The Star Tribune.

The number of properties with private lead service lines is unknown.

Duluth offers free inspections that can confirm whether a home has a lead service line and if precautions need to be taken. Residents can call 218-730-5200.

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