City is testing lead water lines

  • Aug. 23, 2010 10:34 p.m.

The City is on the lookout for homes built before the early 1960s that may have lead water service lines.

City Council heard Monday about details of homeowners being contacted by letter within the next week if their homes allowed for the use of lead piping for water services.

Pre-1960 building codes allowed for the use of lead piping and there are about 3,500 homes in Red Deer where the service piping material is unknown.

“It could be copper, it could be lead, plastic or iron, so the first step is let’s just find out how many lead services we have,” said Tom Warder, environmental services manager.

The next step would be a testing of the home’s water to see if there is an issue of lead concentration, he said. “If there was a problem, then we would work with the resident.”

He said ultimately, the City would want to remove the lead surfaces altogether.

Currently, Environmental Services replaces the City’s portion of lead service lines whenever they are found during routine construction projects in neighbourhoods.

Homeowners often choose to replace their portion of services lines at the same time, he said.

“Now we are taking a more proactive approach in trying to find the piping,” he said.

It’s normally more efficient when the City and the homeowner replace both of their portions of the water service system at the same time, and some systems can be ‘pulled through’ rather than excavated.

Warder said it’s expected that the lead service identification program will speed up the demand for lead service replacement work. From there, it could take a number of years to catch up with all the replacement demands that could surface, he said.

“Depending on how many we find, it may take us a number of years.”

There are strategies to limit the exposure to lead in drinking water, including the use of filtration devices or flushing out standing water in pipes after periods when they haven’t been used for some time.

The City expects that several hundred of the homes to be tested will have a lead water service.

Health Canada guidelines require that 60 initial and 30 ongoing sample locations for lead testing are to be taken during the summer months only. That’s because warmer weather causes increased potential for lead leaching in warmer water.

Currently, the City uses a caustic soda treatment to balance the pH of the finished water and minimize water corrosion. This practice creates a protective film which coats the inside of the pipes and minimizes lead seepage.

“The City of Red Deer’s water is safe and is continually tested to ensure it meets all provincial water quality standards,” said Randy Reaman, Water Superintendent with the City of Red Deer. “This study will help us gather information to use as a baseline to develop future testing protocols to maintain our high drinking water standards.”

Red Deer’s drinking water comes from the Water Treatment Plant and is virtually lead-free, and officials say the lead level content in Red Deer’s drinking water distribution system is well within the Health Canada guidelines for corrosion control in water distribution systems (2009).

The study is expected to be completed in late October, and the City will continue to work with homeowners as results come in.

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