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Lead is a naturally occurring metal. It was previously used in many applications but is now known to be a health concern, particularly for children under the age of six and pregnant women.

Lead in drinking water is one possible way of being exposed to lead. When drinking water leaves our water treatment plants in Edmonton and travels through our distribution system, it contains no measurable level of lead. However, other sources of lead exist.

Learn more about lead in drinking water, how to prevent it and how EPCOR can help.

Sources of lead in drinking water

The most commons sources of lead in drinking water are:

  • Lead service lines (the homeowner's portion, the utility's portion or both); and
  • Household plumbing, like old solder, brass plumbing fixtures and lead deposits in plumbing systems.

Lead service lines in Edmonton

About 1% of homes in Edmonton still have a water service line that is lead on the utility's portion.

Most of these homes were built prior to 1960. At that time, lead was a material available to homebuilders for water lines. Today, the preferred materials are copper and plastic.

When the utility's portion of the water service line is lead, it is often a good indication that the homeowner's portion could be lead too.

Please note: EPCOR does not have records for the homeowner portions of water service lines.

Understanding your water service line

The pipe that connects your property's plumbing to the water main in the street is called a water service line.

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's Lead Management Program

In 2008, EPCOR started our Lead Management Program to ensure our Edmonton customers with lead service lines were receiving good water quality. 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 free water sampling by appointment or provide home sampling kits for customers to test their lead levels at the tap;  
  • Offer free 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;
  • Replace our portions of lead service lines during the construction season. We prioritize replacement for homes with young children and pregnant women, and for homeowners who have replaced their portion of the 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.
  • Upholding standards for new infill development.  We do not support the reuse of lead water service pipe for redeveloped properties, and we work with property owners to connect new water services.

Water service for infill development, rezoning or subdivisions

When property is being redeveloped, property owners are responsible for upgrading the full water service line, from the main to the home or building, to current standards.

Residents or property developers involved in property redevelopment should contact the City of Edmonton at 780-496-5444 to confirm the water service line meets current standards.

Steps you can take to prevent lead in tap water

Check if your water service is lead

  1. If your home was built before 1960, it is more likely you could have a lead service line.

  2. If you receive an annual lead notification from EPCOR, this means our records show the utility portion of your service line is lead.

  3. If you aren't sure if the homeowner portion of your service line is lead, here's how to tell:

    • The colour, hardness and fittings of the service line coming out of the ground and into the water meter in your home can indicate whether your service line is lead. Here's how to check:

      1. Locate the emergency water shutoff valve or water meter in your home (usually found in the basement).

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

      3. The next indicators are the hardness and fittings:

      4. Don't attempt to test the hardness of your pipe if you suspect it's plastic.

      5. If it's a lead pipe, you'll be able to etch gently into the pipe with a sharp-tipped object. Lead is a relatively soft metal and cuts easily.

  4. Even if going through this checklist doesn't indicate you have a lead service line, a small chance still exists that a section of lead piping is present underground. If you'd like to inquire about your property, please call our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858.

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.

Request free water testing

If you have a lead service line or would like to confirm lead levels at your tap, you can book an appointment for complimentary water testing by calling our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858.

Install a water filter

If you have a lead service line, you can request a complimentary, tap-mount filter from EPCOR by calling our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858. You can also purchase your own water filter. You will want to ensure the filter you choose is certified to NSF 53 for the removal of lead. Here are some water filtration options.

‚ÄčFiltered water pitcher

 

Fridge water-dispenser unit

‚ÄčTap-mount unit

 

Under-the-counter unit

 

Replacing your lead service line

If you have a lead service line, replacing it is the best long-term solution for reducing lead in your drinking water.

Replacement of the homeowner portion of your service line is at your own cost. If you choose to replace it, EPCOR will work with you to prioritize the replacement of our portion.

If you are considering replacing your section of the water service line, we recommend contacting a private contractor who can provide a quote and help you determine if it's the right decision. For a list of contractors who, to our knowledge, are equipped to provide this service, please contact our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858.

Follow these general tips for good water quality

  • Do not 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 three minutes any time you haven't used the water for six 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 are using a filtering system of any kind, properly condition new filters before their first use, and replace used filter cartridges as required according to the manufacturers' guidelines.
  • 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.

Water service line examples

Click on the links to view the images.

Contact us

EPCOR Lead Management Program Representative

EPCOR Water Service Connection Inquiries