Minnesota study shows costs and benefits of lead pipe removal

March 15, 2019

A February study from the Minnesota Department of Health says removing lead from the state’s drinking water infrastructure would cost between $1.52 billion and $4.12 billion over 20 years — an investment that would yield benefits of between $4.24 billion and $8.47 billion.

Done with the University of Minnesota, the report, “Lead in Minnesota Water,” resulted from legislative action in 2017 ordering the department to determine the scope of lead exposure in water and the cost to eliminate it. It recommends a statewide inventory of lead pipes and a 20-year plan to remove them, along with public awareness campaigns and technical assistance to local communities.

In other Midwestern states, Michigan regulators are requiring water utilities to replace all lead pipes within 20 years at their expense starting in 2021. A Wisconsin law (SB 48 from 2017) lets municipalities and private utilities give financial assistance to private property owners to pay for lead pipe removal. An Illinois law (SB 550) requires lead testing in all elementary schools, licensed day care centers, and in home and group care settings. Illinois and Ohio also require community water systems to comprehensively inventory lead service lines, including privately owned ones.