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Although lead is a naturally occurring metal, it is a known health concern.

There is potential to be exposed to lead through lead water pipes. Learn more about lead, how to determine if your water pipes are made of lead, what to do if they are, and steps to protect yourself.

Lead and water quality

Learn more about lead and water quality in Edmonton.

Lead in drinking water

Lead in your tap water

Helpful tips to help you determine if your pipes are lead.

How to know if you have lead
in your tap water

What you need to do

Determine your next steps if you find your pipes are lead.

What to do if you have lead


Lead in drinking water


Update: New Health Canada guideline for lead in drinking water

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:

  • Follow 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

About 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.


how to know if you have lead in your tap water


Understanding your water service line

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.

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

 

Check if your water service line is lead

If your home was built before 1960, it is more likely you could have a lead service line. If you receive an annual lead notification from EPCOR, this means our records show the utility portion of your service line is lead.

If you aren't sure if the homeowner portion of your service line is lead, follow these steps or watch our video:

  1. Locate the emergency water shut-off valve or water meter in your home; it's usually 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 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.
  3. Check the hardness of the pipe:
    • If you think it 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'd like to inquire about your property, please call our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858.

Water service line examples

Click on the links to view the images.


What to do if you have lead


Contact us: Lead Management Program

If you believe you have a lead service line, contact us at (780) 412-6858. In 2008, EPCOR started our Lead Management Program to ensure our Edmonton customers with lead service lines on the utility side 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other actions you can take:

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, or until cold, 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 water 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.

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 water testing

If you have a lead service line or would like to confirm lead levels at your tap, please contact our Lead Management Program Representative at (780) 412-6858.

Install a water filter

Consider purchasing a water filter from a home improvement store. You will want to ensure the filter you choose is NSF-53 Certified for lead reduction. Here are some water filtration options.

Filtered water pitcher

​Tap-mount unit

​Fridge water-dispenser unit

​Under-the-counter unit

Replace your lead service line

Replacing your lead service line will reduce lead in your drinking water. It will 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 at (780) 412-6858.

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.