Bills Related to Lead Service Lines Heard in House

April 4, 2022

The legislation would have drastically increased requirements for city water utilities to find and replace lead pipes, but troublesome provisions were removed.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee had hearings on March 30 for two bills dealing with public water supplier efforts to do inventory on lead service lines in their systems and develop a plan to replace them.

The bills, HF 4115 and HF 4429, are authored by Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Minneapolis).

There were problematic provisions that would increase requirements for city water utilities, but the League and others successfully worked with the bill author to have them removed.

Bills inconsistent with federal changes

The bills were inconsistent with new federal changes to the lead and copper rules for public water suppliers. The federal changes require city water utilities to do inventories and maps of their water supply system and note where any known lead pipes exist in the public segments or the private connections to that system.

The utility must then develop a plan to replace the known lead service lines and identify any additional unknown lead pipes. That is complicated by the fact that city staff cannot go onto private property without the permission of the property owner.

In particular, the language in HF 4429 was completely inconsistent with new federal requirements and would have been virtually impossible for most Minnesota cities to meet.

As introduced, it required initial inventories to be completed by September 2022, with final inventories and replacement plans in place by July 2023. It also required that all work done on private property be fully paid for by the utility through rate increases to the entire rate base of the water utility.

Cites working toward later deadline

The deadline for inventory and plan work to be completed under federal rule is October 2024. City utilities have known this requirement was coming and have been working with state and federal regulators to be ready to do that work. The Environmental Protection Agency, however, has not yet completed its guidance for what the inventories and replacement plans need to include and how they need to be reported.

Once guidance comes out, the Minnesota Department of Health will work with water providers on how to meet those requirements. The League is helping the department develop some of the information for that assistance and guidance.

Troublesome provisions removed

The League, the Department of Health, and the Water Utility Council (WUC) of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Waterworks Association explained their concerns to Rep. Jordan. She responded by condensing her legislation into one bill, now traveling as HF 4115, which no longer sets separate state requirements for inventories and reporting. All the major provisions that raised concerns were removed or amended in the new language.

At the hearing, Scott Anderson, the chair of WUC and Bloomington Water Supervisor, and Craig Johnson, of the League, thanked the author for her work and testified that the bill, as amended, no longer raised significant concerns. It only needs to have some definitions and clarity added.

The bill was passed and referred to the House Capital Investment Committee. The Senate has not acted on any similar legislation.

To see the language approved by the committee, visit the status page of HF 4115, where the first engrossment version will be posted soon.

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