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'Get the Lead Out" bill pending in Congress

The US House is considering a bill to give all states money to replace lead water lines.

A House committee Tuesday will hear what’s been called the “Get The Lead Out Act.” It appropriates $46 billion toward the states and utilities to replace lead pipe, with a 10 year deadline.

In North Dakota, the Department of Environmental Quality says the state has already done a good job of replacing the lines, especially in rural areas.

"We have a lot of regional water systems that have come in and have done individual hookups to these smaller towns," said state drinking water coordinator Greg Wavra. "They put their own lines into the town. So some of that has already been taken care of."

Wavra said where you’re likely to find more of the lead pipes is in larger cities. He said in some cases, the lines date back to the early 1900s. But Wavra said the cities have taken steps to reduce the amount of lead in the water.

"They condition the water, first of all," Wavra said. "They put some type of additive into it -- usually it's a phosphate -- which will coat the lines, so we don't have the corrosive water getting into contact and leeching the lead out of those lines."

Wavra said as long as that corrosion control is in place, no one has a lead problem in North Dakota.

Wavra saids even taking the lead lines out and replacing them won’t lead to a “zero lead” situation.

"You still have taps in the home that have lead components," Wavra said. "You could have plumbing in a home that has lead lines in it.  Even if we did take every lead line out, we would still have to provide corrosion control."