Lead Pipes and Water Quality

As you may have read, the Toronto Star published a story on water quality tests that showed elevated lead levels in a number of Toronto homes and mentioned North Toronto.

I immediately reached out to the General Manager of Toronto Water and met with the city’s Medical Officer of Health for background as well as an update on what the city is doing to combat the issue. As I told the Toronto Star, when there’s an issue with a “critical” municipal service, the city needs to act quickly.

According to Toronto Water, the problem is caused by lead service pipes that connect the city’s main water line to individual houses. This service line was commonly made of lead prior to the mid 1950s. That is, this is an issue for older homes built before the mid 1950s.

According to the Medical Officer of Health, even where the lead levels are elevated, the health effects are minimal and no one will get sick as a result. Nevertheless, we need to work to reduce our exposure to lead across the board and the city is taking action.

In 2011, City Council approved the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Strategy, a four-part plan to minimize lead in drinking water. The strategy includes lead service pipe replacement, a faucet filter program, water testing for residents and, most recently, a corrosion control program.

As a homeowner, there are three things you can do to reduce your exposure.

First, if you live in an older, pre-1950s home and are concerned about your water quality, you can have your water tested by the city for free to determine if you need to take action. For more information, please visit Toronto Water’s website.

Second, you can replace your lead service pipe. Homeowners are responsible for the section of the pipe that runs from their home to the property line. The city is responsible for the section of the pipe that runs from the property line to the city’s watermain. You can see a diagram here.

If you replace your side of the service pipe, the city will replace its side on a priority basis. For more information on this program, please click here.

Finally, you can install an end-of-tap filter, which the Medical Officer of Health told me cuts out 95 per cent of any lead in water.

For the most up to date information as well as all of the details on what the city’s doing to combat the issue, please visit http://toronto.ca/leadpipes.

Additionally, Toronto Water staff will be on hand at my Environment Day (Saturday, May 31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at York Mills Collegiate) to address any questions and concerns about lead pipes and water quality.

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