Drinking Water Safety Program 2021
Through new federal Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, Health Canada in March 2019 established a new maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water (0.005 mg/L). These guidelines were subsequently adopted by the provincial Ministry of Environment and Parks, which means all Albertan municipalities are now required to establish a program to reduce lead levels in drinking water — and to accommodate the new maximum acceptable concentration levels in doing so.
Although the Town’s supply of water remains virtually lead-free when it leaves the treatment plant from which it’s sourced, it may collect trace amounts (or higher) of lead as it’s transported through lead water service lines.
Where does the lead come from?
There are various possible sources; however, lead water service lines connecting a home to the municipal water main — and any variety of older, outdated plumbing components — comprise the most common.
Is lead dangerous in drinking water? Should I be concerned?
If concentration levels are high enough, the presence of lead in drinking water can pose some harm to human health. Those most at risk include pregnant women and youth under six years old. In adults, lead exposure can result in kidney problems and increase blood pressure, and in developing children, it can harm behaviour, intelligence, and other aspects of one’s overall neurodevelopment.
It is important to note that lead cannot enter the body through the skin, nor by breathing in vapours generated while bathing or showering.
Lead sources in drinking water.
Water flowing through pipes, fittings and fixtures that contain lead can cause this metal to dissolve and leach into the water.
The primary source of lead that can result in lead being detected in drinking water at the household tap is from Lead Service Lines (LSLs) that supply some homes built in the 1960s or earlier. The service line is the section of small diameter pipe from the municipal water main beneath the street or alley to the home.
Other sources are plumbing components such as lead-tin solder and brass fittings used in household plumbing. The National Plumbing Code allowed lead-tin solder to be used until 1986.
For more information on the health effects of lead exposure, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca Information on the health impacts of lead in drinking water can also be found in the following sources:
What is the Drinking Water Safety Program and why is it taking place?
Commencing in Spring 2021, the Town of Innisfail will undertake efforts to both identify and mitigate any sources of excessive lead contamination in household drinking water in the community. Residents are being asked for their assistance in advancing these efforts.
What action(s) do I need to take?
Ultimately, we need your help to determine whether or not your household water supply contains an excessive amount of lead contamination. Houses built in the 1960s or earlier are most at risk.
If your water supply is found to exceed the maximum acceptable concentration levels, we’ll help explore and initiate a solution in accordance with the various options that are available.
If your house has a lead service line, or you live in an older home (built before 1990) with internal plumbing that may contain lead, or if you suspect that your drinking water may contain lead, the Town encourages you to participate in our voluntary lead monitoring program. If you would like to participate, please fill out the online registration form available on this web page. If interest in the program is high, it is likely that the Town may not be able to visit all participant’s homes in the year of registration. However, this is an ongoing program and will continue over a number of years. Priority will be given to homes with a confirmed/suspected lead service line, households with children under the age of six and households with pregnant women.
You cannot see, smell or taste lead in water. Laboratory testing of water from the tap is the only way to determine the lead levels in your drinking water.
Following AEP Guidelines, samples will be collected between May 1 and September 30 when temperatures are warmer.
Sampling will be conducted at the cold water tap which is used most often for drinking and food preparation, usually the kitchen tap. If a kitchen faucet filter has already been installed and cannot be removed, a second non-filtered tap which is also used for drinking water can be sampled. Homes with devices that treat all of the water coming into the house cannot be tested.
For this initial testing the sample is taken without flushing and no stagnation period, so the sampler spends a very short amount of time in the residence (10 minutes or less).
Since drinking water data and personal information will be shared with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) we require your consent to do so. This will be done in the form of a FOIP or Privacy Clause to be signed when the sample is collected.
Samples will be analyzed for total lead by an approved laboratory.
The Town will receive the results from the lab and in return will provide the homeowner/occupant the information within 14 days after receipt, regardless of the lead concentration.
The lead monitoring program is voluntary and there is no cost to participate. The Town of Innisfail will cover the cost of sampling, shipping and analysis.
Identifying Lead/Addressing the Issue
First, find your water meter, it is usually located in the basement.
Check the colour and other attributes of the pipe leading from outside your home to the water meter.
- Lead pipes are a dark, dull grey colour; a magnet will not stick to lead; a lead pipe does not echo if you gently strike it; lead scratches easily and will leave a shiny silver surface and flakes off, it also leaves metallic marks when you rub the scratched area against paper.
- Galvanized steel pipes are also grey; a magnet will stick to them; a scratched area will remain grey in colour.
- Copper pipes are a brownish, copper colour (like a penny); a magnet will not stick to a copper pipe; a scratched area will remain copper in colour.
NPR has created an online, interactive guide to help homeowners locate water lines. To access the site, click here.
If you are unsure whether your pipes, fixtures and solder are lead, or you are unable to reach your pipes or you are uncomfortable doing these tests yourself, hire a plumber to carry out these checks for you.
Ownership of Service Lines
A water pipe, also known as a water service line is the way drinking water is delivered to each home in Innisfail. This water pipe can be thought of as two sections:
From the water main to the property line
This part of the pipe is owned and maintained by the Town of Innisfail.
All water pipes and devices outside the property line are the responsibility of the Town. That includes things like water mains, water main valves and service valves. The Town is responsible for all repairs to these lines.
From the property line to your house
This part of the pipe is owned and maintained by the homeowner.
The homeowner is responsible for all repair costs to the water pipe that leads from their house to the service valve, with the exception of the water meter. The service valve is usually located at or near the property line. The homeowner is also responsible for the main shut-off valve that is normally located inside their house.
In most cases, the property line ends a few meters from the edge of the curb or sidewalk. The legal survey or Real Property Report (RPR) shows where the property line is located.
The water service valve is usually placed very close to the property line. Sometimes the valve is located on the homeowner’s side, however the Town still owns it.
How Do I Set Up a Test?
If you suspect your house may contain a lead service line, or if you live in an older home or have older, outdated plumbing fixtures, then the Town encourages you to participate in voluntary testing of your drinking water supply.
We’ll come to your house and collect a sample — or, if you’d prefer, you may do so on your own. If you do, we’ll make arrangements for Town staff to safely come and pick it up (COVID-19 safety/distancing measures will be observed). Both ways are simple, straight forward, and intended to minimize disruption to homeowners.
Please note that testing will be booked on a priority basis. Once you’ve indicated your interest in participating in voluntary testing, Town staff will review your situation to determine its level of priority in accordance with a set of pre-determined criteria.
Properties to be prioritized for testing include those that: (1) Have a lead service line; (2) Were constructed prior to 1990; (3) Are home to a pregnant woman; and/or (4) Are home to a child(ren) under six years old.
What happens if my lead levels are high?
If your water is deemed to have higher-than-acceptable lead levels, the first followup action will be to identify any potential source(s) of this excessive contamination. Upon doing so, Town staff will then be able to help you explore a variety of remedial solutions, which could range from the simple installation of a filter device to the replacement of underground water service lines (pipes that carry water from the municipal water main line to a specific home or property).
Solutions will be dependent upon the specific circumstances around each case.
Who is responsible for any necessary repairs/replacements? Costs?
The answer to this question will depend largely upon the circumstances of your specific situation; however, responsibility for the most part will be determined by whether the lead is found to have originated from municipally owned infrastructure, or through a service line or another plumbing component on the homeowner’s side of the property line. Any necessary repairs to, or replacement of, infrastructure outside of the property line is the responsibility of the Town, while any such actions required within it are the responsibility of the homeowner. Town staff will remain available to discuss and explain these options throughout the testing process.
What if my home has elevated levels of lead?
If the results are higher than the maximum allowable concentration (MAC) of 0.005 mg/L it is most likely that your home has a lead service line (LSL) and/or household plumbing that contains lead pipes, fittings or fixtures containing lead.
The Town will conduct follow-up sampling for verification of the results, take steps to identify the source of the contamination, confirm the type of pipe on public and private property, determine what public infrastructure may need to be replaced and provide you further information on what you can do.
What can I do to reduce my exposure to lead?
If the drinking water in your home has elevated levels of lead (> MAC), or if you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, there are effective ways to remove it permanently. In the meantime, you can take the following preventive steps to limit exposure to lead:
- Flush out the water that has been sitting in the home plumbing and service line for a few hours to make sure fresh drinking water comes directly from the water main in the street. Do this first thing in the morning or when you get home from work by flushing the toilet, taking a shower or starting a load of laundry or letting the water run for a couple of minutes.
- Use cold water for drinking and preparing food. Hot water dissolves more lead from plumbing than cold water.
- Boiling your water does not remove lead.
- Clean the faucet aerators (small screens in the faucet outlet) regularly.
- Children under the age of six and pregnant women could consider using alternate sources of drinking water.
- Install a filter device to remove lead.
Lead will not enter through the skin or by breathing in vapours while showering or bathing. Bathing and showering in water that contains levels of lead above the guideline value is considered safe.
Replacing lead service line.
Replacing the lead service line (LSL) to your home is the most effective and permanent way to reduce lead from your drinking water.
The Town is responsible for the cost of replacing the lead service line on public property, from the water main in the street to the property line.
The homeowner is responsible for the cost of replacing the lead service line on private property, from the property line to the house.
If the service line is lead on both sides (private and public) it is recommended to replace the whole service line at the same time. A partial replacement can actually lead to an increase in lead levels at the tap due to the disturbance of the existing LSL, which can dislodge existing lead scales and sediments. Also the cost of a full service line replacement is usually less expensive.
If a homeowner decides to replace the private-side of the LSL, to avoid prolonged elevated lead levels at the tap, the Town will make every effort to replace the public-side as soon as possible.
Upgrading interior plumbing materials.
Upgrading your interior plumbing materials is a permanent solution to ensure your plumbing parts are lead-free. Remove any pipes, fittings or faucets in your home that contain lead and replace them with appropriate materials certified for use in drinking water systems. Make sure that any solder used in your plumbing is lead-free.
These are effective household water treatment devices that are certified to remove lead from drinking water. Health Canada recommends for best results, these devices (faucet-mount or under-the-sink) be installed at the tap that is most commonly used for drinking water. Many devices can achieve the new guideline of 0.005 mg/L. They do, however, require ongoing maintenance, such as the regular replacement of filters. They can serve as a short-term solution until permanent solutions (LSL replacement, upgrading interior plumbing materials) can be implemented.
Make sure that any filter device you purchase is certified to reduce lead by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). The device must be installed and maintained according to the instructions given by the manufacturer. Visit the NSF website or call for more information.