High lead levels found in water, but experts say Ottawa fares well

Tap Water

A new study has found that some Canadian cities have higher levels of lead in their drinking water than Flint, Michigan, which has become synonymous with contaminated H20.

The year-long investigation, conducted by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media groups including The Associated Press and the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, reviewed thousands of previously undisclosed results and tested water from hundreds of homes in 11 different cities. Researchers recorded lead levels above national safety directives, including at some schools and daycares.

According to the study, out of the more than 12-thousand tests conducted, 97 failed in Ottawa, meaning 12 per cent exceeded the acceptable limit of 10 parts per billion.

“Ottawa’s tap water is one of the best,” said Water Quality Engineer for the City of Ottawa Ian Douglas.

“The levels in Ottawa are really quite good but health experts say there’s no safe low level of lead, and the goal is always zero.”

Douglas says lead pipes were used in homes built between 1800 and 1955, estimated to be roughly 15 per cent of homes in Ottawa, or 30-thousand houses.

‘We typically see numbers between 2 to 5 ppb [in older homes],” said Douglas.

“But we do see homes with 5, maybe higher than 10, it depends on the length of the service line.”

The water leaving Ottawa’s treatment facility is lead-free, but it can pick up traces of lead as it makes it’s way through the pipes.

“When it goes through the pipes it can pick up traces as well as water staying stagnant overnight,” said Douglas.

“It’s important to flush your taps before consuming it.”

About one-third of tests exceeded the Canadian guidelines of 5 parts per billion with some of the highest levels recorded in Montreal, Regina and Prince Rupert, B.C. Prolonged exposure to high amounts of lead over months or years can result in lead poisoning,

In Canada, there is no national mandate to test drinking water and agencies that conduct tests have no obligation to inform residents. Provinces set their own rules for water testing and lead pipe replacement. In British Columbia, where Prince Rupert recorded lead levels of 15.6 ppb, municipalities are not required to test tap water.

The City of Ottawa will test your water for fee, to see what lead concentration is there. The city also offers a lead-pipe replacement program for homeowners in which the city will pay to replace their portion, and the homeowner responsible for their portion will receive a $1000 dollar rebate.

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