St. Paul homeowners get free lead water pipe replacements, backed by $4M in COVID relief – InForum


stone. PAUL – Relief payments from the federal America Relief Program Act help small businesses stay afloat, house the homeless, and pay for COVID testing and vaccination clinics.

Next up: Replacing lead water pipes throughout São Paulo, which could be a test case across the state.

On Wednesday, the São Paulo City Council authorized $4 million in federal U.S. rescue program funds to start a lead pipe replacement fund. The São Paulo Regional Water Authority is preparing a 10-year plan to replace all major service lines at no cost, with work starting in 2023, but there’s a catch.

Those leads from the basement water meter to the curb are on private property, which means homeowners need to be proactive in seeking service, which translates to an average saving of $6,000 per property.

“It will be a voluntary, free program,” said Patrick Shea, general manager of the São Paulo Regional Water Company. “We want to make sure that as much work is done as possible with the funds available. Getting people to sign up will be an effort across the board.”

If you are a homeowner looking to replace your primary service line, keep that in mind and contact water service first at 651-266-6270.

Shea is working with the administration of São Paulo Mayor Melvin Carter on an official announcement, details of which will be released next week.

“We haven’t done this kind of project before, so we need to understand what works and what doesn’t,” Shea said. “It allows us to have a very modest rollout in 2022 and refine our 2023 to 2032 — 10-year plan as much as possible.”

Minnesota is preparing its own lead replacement program, funded by federal infrastructure funding — $43 million annually for five years.

“It’s an application process similar to how communities apply for infrastructure funding to build water towers,” Shea said. “If it goes the way other programs do, every year (cities) apply, the state government figures out how much money it has to give out, and they apply according to that process. If a city doesn’t have any leading services, it will only allow those who have. cities are bigger.”

The $4 million in federal relief is earmarked for São Paulo and is likely to arrive soon. At an average of $6,000 per household, these funds alone can cover less than 700 projects. Equipping each eligible property (as many as 26,000 across the city) will cost more than $220 million.

Lead, a common but undesirable contaminant in drinking water, has been found in many water lines installed in St. Paul’s homes built before 1926 and in some homes built between 1942 and 1947, according to the city.

While homeowners have service lines all the way to on-street parking, the São Paulo Regional Water Authority maintains connections from on-street parking to the street main and has been gradually replacing those connections over the past two decades.

“Over the past 25 years, we’ve done the replacement of the public parts,” Shea said. “We’re currently spending $2 million to $3 million a year on this work.”

Soon, homeowners interested in replacing some of the plumbing located on their private property will be able to do so for free, but only if they register.

Last March, the “ARPA” fund, authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, provided $350 billion to states and local governments, of which cities received their $45.8 billion share in two installments. São Paulo will net $166.6 million from the legislation, the equivalent of a year’s worth of property taxes.

Despite the windfall, city council members have noted a large and competing demand for cash, most of which is spent within a certain time frame – “obligated” to spend by December 31, 2024, and Spend before December 31, 2026 – and cannot be used for expenses outside the legislative scope, albeit a broad one.

These eligible expenses include assistance to families, small businesses, nonprofits, and the tourism and hospitality industries, as well as high salaries for frontline workers. Expenses may also include water, sewer or broadband infrastructure and cover general government services, which have reduced the city’s revenue compared to the most recent fiscal year before the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Looking at infrastructure, city officials noted that even important home improvements like replacing lead pipes may be out of reach for the working poor, especially as the public health crisis hits low-wage workers disproportionately hard. More so.

“The public health and economic impact of the pandemic will be most severe on disadvantaged communities and populations before the outbreak begins,” the council resolution, passed on Wednesday, noted.

The São Paulo Regional Water Authority will release more details next week.

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