Will Minnesota get the lead out this session?

by Trevor Russell

Lead in drinking water is especially harmful to children. In Minnesota, 100,000 homes still have lead service lines, a major source of lead exposure. Sign our petition to get the lead out of Minnesota.

At FMR, we believe that everyone deserves safe drinking water and a healthy environment. That’s why we support numerous lead pollution prevention and remediation bills this year.

Lead provisions are scattered throughout multiple pieces of legislation in numerous committees rather than in a single bill. These bills address lead in drinking water, consumer products, schools and daycare facilities, tackle, ammunition and more.

Here’s where things stand and how you can support getting the lead out in Minnesota.

Lead Service Lines replacement

While lead was banned for plumbing in 1986, existing lead pipes remain a threat in Minnesota. An estimated 100,000 Minnesota homes still have lead service lines, a major source of harmful lead exposure via drinking water. The most effective way to limit toxic lead exposure in drinking water is to remove these lead service lines connecting a home or building to the public water main – which FMR strongly supports.

No fewer than five different bills in the House and Senate provide support for lead service lines inventory and replacement.

  • Bonding bills: The big-ticket items are in the bonding bills – where both the House (HF 4115) and Senate (SF 4121) are considering bills to invest $10 million for lead service lines inventory and $300 million for replacement over 10 years. Importantly, both bills also establish a long-overdue goal of removing all lead service lines by 2032.
  • Health & Human Services (HHS): The House Omnibus Human Services Finance and Policy bill (HF 4579) includes $11.8 million for grants to public water suppliers to complete a lead service line inventory of their distribution systems through 2025, and an additional $5 million for lead service lines replacement. The Senate version (SF 4165) does not include this funding.
  • House Environment Bill: The House Omnibus Environment Finance & Policy bill (HF 4492) provides $2.3 million for grants to cities and other public water suppliers to replace the privately-owned portion of residential lead service lines. The Senate version (SF 4062) does not include this funding.
  • ENRTF Renewal Bill (proposed Water Protection Fund): The Senate’s ENRTF renewal package includes language to re-allocate some lottery proceeds from the general fund to a new water protection fund. While the specific language isn’t final (and a specific dollar figure is not yet available), this could provide another pathway to funding lead service line replacement through 2050 if that referendum passes. The House has not taken action on ENRTF renewal legislation.
  • Clean Water Fund Supplemental Budget: The House has also proposed funding LSL replacement out of a one-time surplus in the state’s Clean Water Fund. The bill (HF 4377 DE3) devotes an additional $7.66 million to the Public Facilities Authority for lead service line replacement. FMR opposes this specific legislation because it did not move through the Clean Water Council recommendations process.

Lead-free schools

The House Omnibus Human Services Finance and Policy bill (HF 4579) includes a grant program to provide $5.135 million to address lead in drinking water in schools and childcare settings through 2025. The Senate companion (SF 4165) does not include this funding.

Lead in daycare centers

The House Omnibus Human Services Finance and Policy bill (HF 4579) includes $1 million for statewide testing and remediation of lead in drinking water at daycare facilities. The Senate companion (SF 4165) does not include this funding.

Lead in consumer products

The House Omnibus Environment Finance & Policy bill (HF 4492) includes $74,000 for complete compliance monitoring and testing lead and cadmium in consumer products. The Senate version (SF 4062) does not include this language.

Lead sinkers and tackle

  • Swan Protection Act: The House Omnibus Environment Finance & Policy bill (HF 4492) includes Swan protection Act language that provides $3 million funding for the state to establish designating swan resting areas, in which the use of lead sinkers is prohibited. The funding will allow for increased education and outreach promoting the protection of swans. The Senate version (SF 4062) does not include this language.
  • Lead tackle collection: The House Omnibus Environment Finance & Policy bill (HF 4492) also provides $1 million for a lead tackle collection program that provides collection sites throughout the state where anglers may safely dispose of lead tackle. The Senate version (SF 4062) does not include this language.
  • Toxic fishing tackle prohibition: HF 157 / SF 2813 ban the manufacture and sale of lead jigs and sinkers, commonly left in and near waters where fish and waterfowl mistake them for pebbles. Neither bill is expected to advance this session.

Lead ammunition

  • Lead shot restrictions: The House Omnibus Environment Finance & Policy bill (HF 4492) requires the use of nontoxic shot (lead-free) when hunting small game on a WMA in the state’s so-called “farmland zone”  beginning July 1, 2023. The Senate version (SF 4062) does not include this language
  • Lead ammunition prohibitions: Additional language in HF 2556 and SF 2545 requires the use of lead-free ammunition in hunting, establishing voucher and buy-back programs to ease the transition to non-toxic ammunition. Neither bill is expected to advance this session.

Looking ahead

The next five to six weeks will likely be a whirlwind of legislative negotiations and political posturing. Both sides have said they're committed to wrapping up by May 23rd, and not going into a  "special session," any movement toward a lead-free Minnesota must come soon. 

Sign our petition to get the lead out of Minnesota, and we'll deliver it to lawmakers when the time is right.

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