A Calgary mom was unnerved to find out she and her two young children may have been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water at their home for the past year — and hundreds of other Calgarians are in the same boat. "It's just unnerving that we've been there for a year and that we could have been drinking lead water for the last year. There's a bit of a panic," she said, adding the situation feels out of her control because the rents the house, which is in Hillhurst.
For the first time almost three decades, Health Canada has updated its guideline for lead in drinking water — cutting the acceptable concentration of the metal in half. The decision is based on the latest science, according to the government body, which worked with the provinces and territories to reduce the maximum acceptable concentration from 0.01 mg/L, set in 1992, to 0.005 mg/L.
EPCOR needs money to lower the lead levels in Edmonton’s drinking water – a cost that may wind up on residents water bills. Although officials from EPCOR and the city said the drinking water is safe, levels must be reduced to meet new federal regulations. Earlier this month Health Canada cut acceptable lead levels in half, from 10 micrograms per litre to five.
The cost of testing ranges between $30 and $120, depending on the scope of the analysis. The provincial Environment Department recommends residents on well water have it tested for bacteria every six months, and every two years for chemicals such as arsenic, fluoride, lead, nitrate/nitrite and uranium. Bacterial quality is usually assessed by a coliform test.
There is also concern the changes that were made that allowed some of the advisories to be lifted were just temporary fixes. There are long-term, structural problems with the water treatment systems in many Indigenous communities that have not been addressed. Many of these places lack the proper equipment needed to remedy the operational issues with which they are confronted.
Looming changes to Health Canada’s acceptable concentration levels of lead in drinking water could see a wash of city homes creep above the recommended level, Epcor warned city council’s utility committee Thursday. Presently, it’s considered safe to have up to 10 micrograms per litre in drinking water. But Epcor officials said Thursday that the federal health agency is signalling it will lower that level to five micrograms per litre, a change that will affect more than 30,000 Edmonton homes.