Duluth issues lead service notifications, what to do if water is contaminated

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:04 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- This week the City of Duluth issued an annual notification to residents who might be at risk for lead contamination.

“The EPA adopted new regulations with regard to lead drinking water. Those regulations take effect in 2024. One of the stipulations on those regulations is that a community notify a homeowner with lead service pipe once a year in writing,” said Eric Shaffer, an engineer with the city of Duluth.

The city has approximately 5,000 lead service pipes left.

Lead-contaminated water is defined as any water with more than 10 parts per billion of lead.

“That’s out of 28,000 total services, and so about 1/5 of the services are lead,” said Shaffer.

The city hopes to cut down on that number over the next few years.

“We would like to move somewhere between 600 and 800 lead services in 2023,” said Shaffer.

He said the city has applied for $10 million in grant money to begin removing those lead service pipes.

If they apply for that grant over a few years, they hope they can eliminate the problem entirely.

“Our big goal is to get the lead out of the system so this is not an issue at all,” Shaffer said.

Physicians like Dr. Peter Chase with Essentia Health’s Toxicology division say lead in any capacity can be dangerous.

“Multiple organs can be affected by lead that, and ultimately those systems don’t work. When they break down, then obviously, we don’t function like we normally do,” he said.

Chase believes any opportunity you have to limit lead levels in your drinking water is one you should take.

“The buildup of lead over time can only have potentially negative impacts on your health. So you clearly would want to minimize the amount of lead that you’re taking in,” he said.

Anyone who received a letter also should have received a voucher for a free pitcher and filter.

You can head to Comfort Systems’ business office during regular work hours to exchange that voucher.