Lead in drinking water
Update: New Health Canada guideline for lead in drinking water
Related Health Canada documents
EPCOR is taking steps to align with a new Health Canada Guideline released March 8, 2019.
Health Canada reduced its maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for lead in drinking water from 10 μg/L (micrograms per Litre) to 5 μg/L. In addition to reducing the MAC of lead, the new Guideline takes steps to recognize that plumbing in your home is an important source of lead in drinking water. While in the past, low levels of lead exposure were considered low risk Health Canada now recognizes new information on the health effects of lead exposure from all sources (not just drinking water).
Health Canada is also recommending that water sample testing for lead now be taken at the tap. Previously, the sample was taken and tested as the water was leaving the treatment plant or in the distribution system.
Although EPCOR has had a lead management program in place to reduce lead in Edmonton's drinking water since 2008, 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.
Water quality in Edmonton
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. That's why, to align with the new Guideline, EPCOR is exploring ways to accelerate the removal of lead service lines and minimize lead release from home plumbing and fixtures. Our enhanced Lead Mitigation Strategy will minimize risks from lead in drinking water and help us to meet the requirements of the new Guideline.
Concerned you may have lead in your home or on your property?
Learn what you can do.
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal. It was previously used in many applications but is now known to be a health concern.
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 the municipal distribution system piping, it contains no measurable level of lead. Sources of lead include: lead service lines, as well as household plumbing components such as old solder and brass plumbing fixtures.
Reducing lead health risks
Lead can be harmful to the health of people of all ages but particularly for children under the age of six and pregnant women.
Individuals in these groups living in a household with lead, regularly consuming water from a location with lead or those who are concerned about lead can take the following steps:
good water quality tips
- Purchase an in-home water filter that is "NSF-53 Certified for lead reduction in drinking water." Be sure to replace filtration cartridges regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Consider lead-free plumbing components when you replace fittings in your home or for a new build. Look for NSF-372 Certified products from home improvement stores.
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
1.6% of homes in Edmonton have a water service line that is lead.
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.