The federal agency Health Canada in March of this year revised its rating for safe level of content in drinking water from 10 microgrammes per litre, to 5 microgrammes per litre. The province of Quebec announced today it will follow suit.
An investigation this month by two news outlets in collaboration with Montreal’s Concordia University found that provincial lead contamination was using a sampling method that was underestimating lead levels in the water supply. The group tested five cities across the province and found that there were 466 tests showing a higher than the previous 10microg/l acceptable level.
Lead exposure can lead neurological development in the foetus and in young children whose behaviour may also be affected. It can also lead to increased blood pressure or kidney problems in adults.
Lead was a common material from which pipes were made up until the 1950’s in many places, and in some Quebec construction even into the 70’s. Literally tens of thousands of homes in cities across Canada are likely to have lead water pipes.
Montreal, one of Canada’s oldest cities, had been working on a 20 year plan to replace the city’s lead pipes starting in 2007. When doing street repairs if a lead city conduit was found, it was replaced. The city has also been advising residents to change their water entries from the city pipe into their homes. This was a costly venture and many homeowners and landlords have not been doing so in spite of potential health risks.
Now Montreal has announced that in order to speed up the process, when it replaces a city conduit, if the residential pipes are found to be lead, they will be replaced at the same time and the homeowner charged for the replacement. To soften the financial blow, however the bill can be amortised over 15 years.
The provincial government now also wants all municipalities to reduce lead contamination in water through an identification process of homes where lead pipes are likely, a costing and replacement plan.
In Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, there are an estimated 30,000 homes with lead pipes. Indeed many of Canada’s cities have homes with lead pipes, In Halifax and Dartmouth Nova Scotia, an estimate 83,000 homes will need to replace their pipes. However, the city is providing a 25% rebate up to $2,500 to replace their pipes when the city replaces a lead pipe under the street.
Additional information- sources
- City of Toronto: Lead and water information site
- Global News: Oct 16/19: investigation reveals dangerous levels of lead in some Quebec drinking water.
- CBC: Oct 23/19: Quebec cuts level of allowable lead in drinking water
- Halifax Examiner: Jun 26/19: In Halifax or Dartmouth, you’re probably drinking from lead pipes (item 3)
- CTV: B.Boshra: Oct 23/19: Montreal to replace home lead pipes, but send you the bill
- CBC: Sep.19/19: Thousands of Ottawa homeowners urged to change lead pipes
- Global News: A.M. Paperny: Jan 27/16: tens of thousands of Canadian homes still have lead pipes.
- CBC: N.Nanowski: Jul 26/17: Lead level Toronto’s little Italy 5 times acceptable limit