A new Health Canada guideline for Canadian drinking water quality
In March 2019, Health Canada announced a new Guideline for drinking water quality in Canada. Under the new Guideline, the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for lead in drinking water will be reduced from 10 μg/L (micrograms per Litre) to 5 μg/L. It will also shift the point of compliance from the municipal drinking water system to the tap in the customer's premises.
Nothing has changed overnight with Edmonton drinking water—it continues to be safe to drink. Lead in drinking water at the levels we have found in Edmonton is not an acute or immediate health risk. However, left unaddressed, longer-term exposure to lead in drinking water above the new Guideline can have adverse health effects.
EPCOR has been developing a comprehensive Lead Mitigation Strategy that will enable us to proactively meet the new Health Canada Guideline for drinking water quality. EPCOR's strategy will be presented to the City of Edmonton's Utility Committee at the March 22, 2019 meeting, and published online.
For customers with lead service lines, we offer free water sampling and testing, free tap mounted filters to remove lead, tips on improving water quality at the tap and education.
Customers can take immediate measures to reduce risk from lead by flushing their taps after the water has been stagnant and use of a filter.
Find more information about lead and how to identify a lead service line on your premises.
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Background: Drinking water in the Edmonton region
When drinking water leaves EPCOR's water treatment plants and is in the municipal distribution piping, it contains no measureable level of lead. However, the presence of lead in water service lines and private in-premises plumbing can be a source of lead in drinking water.
- In Edmonton, we estimate that approximately 4,450 homes (1.6% of 270,000 homes) have water service lines (the pipes from the water main in the street to a premises) that contain lead. Testing shows that about 2,000 or 46% of these homes will have lead levels that will exceed the new Health Canada Guideline for lead levels in drinking water.
- Another source of lead can be a customer's private in-house plumbing, including old solder and brass plumbing fixtures. Lead-containing household plumbing fixtures are still available for sale in Edmonton, so even newer homes may have lead exceedances. Testing shows that another 23,000 or 8.5% of homes across Edmonton will have lead levels that will exceed the new Health Canada Guideline for lead levels in drinking water. A similar percentage is expected to apply to homes in the 70 communities that EPCOR supplies drinking water to in the greater Edmonton region.
Since 2008, EPCOR has been communicating with customers with lead service lines on an annual basis to help them monitor and mitigate lead levels. Our program includes offering customers with lead service lines free water sampling and testing, free tap mounted filters to remove lead, tips on improving water quality at the tap and education to encourage replacement of their privately owned portion of the water service line to their home.