06/07/2007

The Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of the Environment, announced new water testing and treatment measures to control lead leaching in older homes.
Announcement:

The Ontario government has taken steps today to respond to the risks of lead leaching into drinking water through lead water pipes present in some older homes. Municipalities will have new responsibilities for testing and control programs for lead leaching.

Key elements of the announcement that will impact municipalities include:

  • A proposed new regulation to make it mandatory for municipalities to regularly sample for lead at a specified number of taps, notify home and facility owners of the results from their taps and take corrective action in systems with elevated lead levels.
  • The Province will provide expert advice to municipalities to adjust water chemistry in municipal systems to pick up less lead.
  • The Province will encourage municipalities to conduct public education campaigns, such as inserts in water bill mailings.
  • The Province will provide best practices for municipalities to help make lead line replacement more affordable for homeowners, such as on-bill financing.
Proposed new testing and corrosion control requirements for municipalities are posted on the Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca (EBR posting # 010-0743) for the next 2 weeks.

The testing and measures announced reflect advice given to the government by the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC) (EBR posting # 010-0725) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements to deal with the same issue in areas across the U.S.  Based on ODWAC advice, measures to control for lead leaching and corrosion in drinking water available to municipalities and homeowners include:
  • Flushing of pipes for at least five minutes before use
  • Adjusting the PH and alkalinity of delivered water to reduce lead leaching
  • Certified point of use devices to filter lead
  • Replacement of lead distribution and service lines
  • Replacement of lead solders in home plumbing
To reduce lead levels in drinking water the Council recommended the government adopt a two-tier approach to testing and monitoring as well as mandatory corrosion control requirements. The Council also recommended that the Ministry of the Environment encourage municipalities to accelerate lead service line replacement and institute a program to encourage homeowners to replace their part of the service lines. 

Implications:
  • Municipalities will face requirements for staff time and expertise to test water and institute corrosion control measures;
  • Testing at the tap will measure the lead in delivered water, including lead picked up in private pipes;
  • Testing in the distribution system will continue to measure lead in the water delivered to the homeowner’s property;
  • Many municipalities have long-standing lead distribution line replacement programs that have been directed toward dealing with the issue of lead line replacement and financing. In some cases, the lead lines owned by the municipality have been replaced while homeowners have not replaced the privately owned lead pipes that connect to the municipal system. Such circumstances will add to the complexity of managing corrosion testing and control programs. 
Background:

On May 23rd, 2007, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector issued orders to 36 Ontario municipalities to test drinking water at the tap of 20 residences known or likely to have lead service pipes for lead. In the intervening two weeks those municipalities undertook strong efforts to deliver their results to the Province by the deadline of June 6, 2007. The tests showed that 50 per cent of those communities had at least one sample that exceeded maximum standards for lead. The program announced today was in direct response to the results of that sampling. 

Action: 

AMO's advice to the government on this matter has been that this is a complex problem that requires a considered and balanced approach, focused on safeguarding the health of residents in our communities. AMO also advised that addressing this problem will require the combined efforts and resources of the Province, municipalities and property owners.

AMO will review the government’s plan in greater detail and keep members informed of further developments.