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Our drinking water is safe and clean

We take pride in providing safe and clean drinking water to Edmonton and surrounding areas. Our extensive water testing during the water treatment process monitors colour, taste and smell but the most important tests we do are to ensure the water we deliver is safe for you and your family to drink.

There are no measurable levels of lead in drinking water when it leaves our water treatment plants. But lead may be found in tap water for those homes with lead service line pipes or if it's present in lead plumbing and fixtures inside your home.

About 1.6% of Edmonton homes have lead pipes, but if you do have lead pipes in your home, we have resources that can help you figure out what to do.

 

Your responsibility with water service lines

Both EPCOR and the property owner have responsibilty when it comes to water service lines.

What you're
responsible for

 

Check for lead pipes in your home

Use these 3 simple steps to do a quick check and find out what your portion of the service line is made of.

3-step testing
process

 

Our Lead Management Program

If our records show that your home has a lead service line we send you an annual letter, offer free sampling and a free filtration unit with filters.

What our program
offers

 

General tips for good water quality

If you have concerns about your home water quality, follow these tips to maintain good drinking water quality.

At-home water
quality tips

 

Health Canada guidelines for lead

Our Lead Mitigation Strategy aligns with Health Canada's guidelines for drinking water quality.

How we're meeting
Health Canada's guidelines

 

How we share data and information

We actively and openly communicate to customers, regulators and the public about our lead mitigation efforts and water testing results.

What we're doing
to be transparent

Your responsibility with lead pipes

The water service line is divided between the utility and the property owner.

  • A water service line is the pipe that connects your property's plumbing to the water main in the street.
  • The utility's portion of the service line runs from the water main under the street or alley to the property line.
  • The homeowner's portion of the service line runs from the property line to the water meter in the home or building.
  • This split ownership is common to most cities in North America.
  • EPCOR does not have records for the homeowner portions of water service lines.

​Test for lead pipes in your home

About 1.6% of homes in Edmonton have a lead water service line. Here are a few indications that you may have lead pipes.

  • Your home was built prior to 1960 when lead was a material available for homebuilders for water service lines. Today, the preferred materials are copper and plastic.
  • When the utility's portion of the water service line is lead, it's often likely that your portion could be lead too.
  • If you get an annual letter from our Lead Management Program. This means our records show the utility portion of your service line is lead.

If you're still not sure what your portion of the service line is made of, follow our 3-step process below or watch our video.

How to tell if you have lead water pipes

 

3-step testing process 

Step 1: find your emergency water shut-off valve

Once you find your emergency water shut-off valve or water meter in your home (usually in the basement), check the colour and hardness of the pipe.

Step 2: check the pipe colour

Check the colour of the pipe coming out of the ground and into the meter. You may have to lightly sand the surface of the pipe. If the pipe is:

  • The colour of a Canadian penny: It's copper.
  • Bright blue or black: It's likely plastic tubing (polyethylene). Important: Don't attempt to test the hardness of your pipe if you suspect it's plastic.
  • Grey: It's galvanized iron or lead.

Step 3: check the pipe hardness

If you think your water service line could be lead, try gently etching into the pipe (see video). Lead is relatively soft metal and scratches easily. Do not attempt this if you think the line could be plastic.

While this checklist is a good indicator of whether your pipes are lead, please note that every pipe is a little different. The only way to be sure if you have lead is to have your water tested. If you believe you have a lead service line, contact our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6800.

Water service line examples

Click on the links to view the images.

Our Lead Management Program

In 2008, we started our Lead Management Program to ensure our Edmonton customers with lead service lines on the utility side were receiving good water quality. Only 1.6% of homes in Edmonton have a lead service line on the utility side.

Today, as part of this program, we:

  • Send annual letters to notify customers when our records show the EPCOR portion of their water service line is lead.
  • Offer water sampling by appointment or provide home sampling kits for customers to test their lead levels at the tap. 
  • Offer water filters (one-time, point-of-use) that are certified to remove lead, if used properly.
  • Educate customers and provide advice on how to maintain good water quality with a lead service line.
  • Avoid partial replacements as replacing only one section of a lead service line can temporarily increase lead levels. When partial replacements are required for water main repairs and renewals, we notify customers.
  • Uphold standards for new infill development. We do not support the reuse of lead water service pipes for redeveloped properties, and we work with property owners to connect new water services.

Contact us: EPCOR Lead Management Program Representative

Our Lead Mitigation Strategy

On March 22, 2019 we presented our proposed Lead Mitigation Strategy to proactively meet the new Health Canada Guideline by fully incorporating health, social, environmental and financial considerations. Key elements include:

  • Addition of a lead inhibitor (orthophosphate) to the drinking water to create a protective coating inside of lead pipes and plumbing that prevents lead from leaching into drinking water.
  • Elimination of partial lead service line replacements by replacing the full service line.
  • Accelerated replacement of high priority lead service lines.

General tips for good water quality

  • Don't use water from your hot taps for drinking, eating, cooking or baking. Only consume water from your cold taps, then heat it up if needed.
  • Run your cold water tap for at least 3 minutes, or until cold, any time you haven't used the water for 6 or more hours, if you will be drinking or cooking with it. This flushing time can be reduced if combined with other water use like flushing toilets, showering or running household appliances like the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • If you're using a water filter system, follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Properly condition new filters before their first use, and replace used filter cartridges as required.
  • Take note of construction in your area. Following these general water quality tips is particularly important if construction is occurring near your property, as ground disturbance has the potential to disturb the service line and temporarily increase lead levels in your tap water.

In addition to these general tips, you can take any of the following steps to maintain good water quality.

1. Install a water filter

If you purchase a water filter from a home improvement store, ensure the filter you choose is NSF-53 Certified for lead reduction.

Here are some water filtration options.

Filtered water pitcher

COST OF FILTER: $25 and under
FILTER TYPE: Activated Carbon (NSF-53 certified)
LIFESPAN: 2-3 months

Tap-mount water filtration unit

COST OF FILTER: $25 - $40
FILTER TYPE: Activated Carbon (NSF-53 certified)
LIFESPAN: 2-3 months

Title here

Content here

Fridge water-dispenser unit

COST OF FILTER: $55 and over
FILTER TYPE: Activated Carbon (NSF-53 certified)
LIFESPAN: 6-12 months

Under-the-counter water filtration unit

COST OF FILTER: $55 and over
FILTER TYPE: Activated Carbon (NSF-53 certified)
LIFESPAN: 6-12 months

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Content here

2. Check to see if you have a lead service line

Only 1.6% of homes in Edmonton have a lead service line on the utility side. These residences are part of our Lead Management Program and can receive free water testing.

Customers who do not have a lead service line but are still interested in a water test should purchase one from an accredited lab.

3. Replace in-home plumbing fixtures

If you have plumbing fixtures, such as faucets that contain lead or leaded-brass, consider replacing them with lead-free fixtures.

4. Replace your lead service line

Replacing your lead service line will reduce lead in your drinking water. It'll also help improve water quality throughout your home in comparison to point-of-use filters, which only remove lead at the tap where they have been installed.

In the past, EPCOR replaced our portion of lead services lines during the construction season (May to October). We prioritized replacement for homes with young children and pregnant women. We also prioritized homeowners who chose to replace their portion of the line, as replacing only one section of a lead service line has been shown not to be as effective in reducing lead levels in the home and may result in temporarily increased lead levels.

As a result of the new Health Canada Guideline, EPCOR will be working with the City of Edmonton to develop a new lead service line replacement program as part of our Lead Mitigation Strategy. We will be providing more information and reaching out directly to customers with lead service lines in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you are considering replacing your lead service line, please contact our Lead Management Program Representative first at (780) 412-6800.

​We're aligned with Health Canada's new guideline

In March 2019, Health Canada announced a new guideline for drinking water quality in Canada. Two of the major changes are: 

  1. Reduction of the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water from 10 μg/L (micrograms per Litre) to 5 μg/L.
  2. Requirement to complete testing at the tap from within a customer's home or business, instead of testing it at the propertly line (which was the previous requirement).

We strongly support the new guideline as it will benefit public health and aligns with our efforts to reduce lead exposure from drinking water as much as possible. In addition to our Lead Management Program that started in 2008, we developed our Lead Mitigation Strategy to ensure we meet the new guideline.

While Alberta Environment and Parks gives utilities 5 years to have their lead management plans in place to meet this new guideline, our plan is in place today. EPCOR will soon become one of the first communities in Canada to meet the new national standards.

​How we share data and information

We actively, openly and routinely communicate to customers, regulators and the public about our lead mitigation efforts and water testing results. EPCOR exceeds the amount of monitoring and testing required our regulator Alberta Environment and Parks – further evidence of our commitment to ensuring water quality.

Customer results 

  • We provide test results to those customers who have a utility-side lead service pipe supplying water to their home. As part of our Lead Management Program which we started in 2008, we send an annual letter and share information about the options available to them, our free filtration units with replacement filters and details about our water line replacement program. Less than 1.6% of homes in Edmonton have lead service lines.
  • For customers who participate in the random sampling program, we provide results to any resident living in a house where test results are above the maximum acceptable level set by Health Canada.

We don't publish a household's individual water test results publicly as we respect the privacy of the voluntary participants in the water testing program.

Aggregated reports

  • We publish annual reports that show aggregated city-wide water testing results. These Envirovista reports share aggregated city-wide water testing results related to lead, including drinking water lead test results at the tap from 2008-2018 as well as overall results from our Random Daytime Sampling program.
  • We presented our aggregated results for our Random Daytime Sampling program to the City of Edmonton's Utility Committee during a public meeting in March as part of our lead mitigation strategy.
  • We share our monthly and annual water quality reports on drinking water produced at our Edmonton water treatment plants online and with our regulator. These reports summarize our operational performance and water quality by parameter including lead, iron and others.