Lead in Drinking Water - Voluntary Program

In March 2019, Health Canada published a new Lead limit for potable drinking water in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ). The new guideline for lead introduces two (2) fundamental changes from how lead has been managed in drinking water since 1992, namely: the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for lead was lowered to 5 μg/L (micrograms per litre); and more importantly, the point of compliance for lead is at the customer’s tap and no longer within the distribution system upstream from the service connection point or property line.

In response to these changes Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) has provided a comprehensive guidance document providing clear direction on behalf of AEP to waterworks system Owners and Operators. We want to inform residents on what Camrose County is currently working on and what you can expect as we work to implement the guidelines.

Camrose County operates all our water systems under the direction of Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and the Code of Practice for a Waterworks System Consisting Solely of a Water Distribution System. Camrose County Utilities operates the water systems over and above most of Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) required regulatory water monitoring requirements. Based off these regulatory samples the County can assure you that your water supply is clean and safe for consumption. Camrose County has confirmed all the water distribution systems owned and operated do not exceed the new Health Canada maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for lead and is not sending Lead to you your taps. In most cases lead at the tap will be a result of lead pipes and older plumbing fixtures within private residences.  

Based on our available records many of the distribution systems within the County have been installed after 2009, apart from Ferintosh and New Norway. Camrose County is currently unaware of any residential lead service lines (LSL) within any of the County’s water distribution systems. However, Camrose County does require your help in determining if your residence does have a lead service line (LSL) by performing a basic inspection and test of your service line (shown below) where it enters your residence.

In order to properly test for lead and ensure public health, samples must be taken from within the home at the most used faucet for water consumption (typically the kitchen faucet). Homeowners are invited to participate in a voluntary water sampling program beginning in May 2021.

  • If you would like your home to be part of this program, or if you suspect lead in your water, please call Camrose County Public Works at 780-672-4449 or by email at publicworks@county.camrose.ab.ca. A final list of required residences along with volunteers will be compiled, an appointment will be made to have County Utility Staff come to your home and take a water sample during the required sampling time frame of May 1 – September 30, 2021.
  • The points of sampling will be based on different factors such as: Age of area/sub-division, County records, age of pipes, age of residence and number of tests required per system by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).
  • The samples will be analyzed at an accredited Laboratory. All sample results will be reported back to the homeowner as well as Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).
  • As information will be reported back to AEP a FOIP consent form will have to be signed by the homeowner allowing us to share your water sample results.

Please see the following Fact Sheet that will provide more information and answer some questions you may have about these new guidelines. Your health and safety are an important priority, and we look forward to working with you as these guidelines are implemented.

Camrose County answers your questions about the new federal Lead limit for the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ) and provincial Lead Management Guidelines:

What should I know if I have Lead pipes or Lead based plumbing fixtures?

• If your home was built prior to 1960 there is a potential for lead pipes or fixtures. The National Plumbing Code allowed the use of lead pipes until 1975 and tin-lead solder until 1986. Construction before 1960 has been used as a benchmark for use of lead as a service line material. However, poor construction practices may have resulted in installation of lead pipes after 1975 and in-fill construction may have used the existing Lead service lines instead of installing a non-lead service line.

What can I do if I suspect lead in my water?

  • Run the tap before consuming. The best practice is to wait until you feel the water get colder. This is because lead is a substance that requires time to leech into the water. The longer water has been sitting stagnant in a pipe, the higher the risk. Flushing the line before consumption will help alleviate the lead.
  • Consider purchasing a water filter meeting the appropriate NSF/ANSI 53 drinking water treatment standard to remove lead. Many filters are available thru many different retailers.
  • The County will be using Caro Laboratory Services in Edmonton. If you wish to have an independent test of your water supply, you may reach out to Caro Labs or any other accredited Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA) laboratory privately. 

How do I check my home’s water line? 

  • Locate the water service line entering your residence, where the shutoff valve and water meter should be in your home.
  • Check the following items to help assist you in determining if you have a lead service line (LSL).
    • the color of the piping coming out of the ground and into the water meter. You may have to lightly sand the surface with a piece of sandpaper to expose the metal of the pipe.
      • Copper (the color of a Canadian penny): it is likely copper.
      • Bluish green or black: it is likely plastic.
      • Dark grey: its likely galvanized iron, or Lead.
    • Check the magnetism of the service line.
      • A magnet will not stick to Copper.
      • A magnet will not stick to Lead.
      • If a magnet sticks to you service line it is galvanized.
    • Check the hardness of the service line.
      • If you think it could be lead, try scratching the pipe with a coin. If the scraped area is shiny silver and flakes off, the line is Lead.
      • If you think it could be copper, try scratching the pipe with a penny. If the scraped area is copper in colour, like a penny, your service line is copper.
      • Do not attempt gently etching if you think the pipe could be plastic. 

What should I do if I suspect my residence has a Lead Service Line (LSL)?

  • Contact the Camrose County Public Works Office at 780-672-4449 or by email publicworks@county.camrose.ab.ca . An appointment will be made to have County Utility Staff come to your home and perform an inspection of your service line to confirm whether your residences service line is made of lead or another material. Run the tap before consuming. The best practice is to wait until you feel the water get colder. This is because lead is a substance that requires time to leech into the water. The longer water has been sitting stagnant in a pipe, the higher the risk. Flushing the line before consumption will help alleviate the lead.
  • Consider purchasing a water filter meeting the appropriate NSF/ANSI 53 drinking water treatment standard to remove lead. Many filters are available thru many different retailers.
  • The County will be using Caro Laboratory Services in Edmonton. If you wish to have an independent test of your water supply, you may reach out to Caro Labs or any other accredited Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA) laboratory privately.

The program began in May 2020 and follows a four-year process. Camrose County is currently working on the following.

  • Developing a management plan on behalf of residents.
  • Gathering background information based on our records to identify and/or verify homes and distribution zones which may have the possibility of elevated lead levels.
  • Any homes that have a recorded Lead Service Line will be notified by a direct letter. 

Drinking Water: What about lead? published by Health Canada

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/water-quality/what-about-lead.html

 Common Questions about Lead and Drinking Water published MyHealth.Alberta.ca

https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/Common-questions-about-lead-and-drinking-water.aspx

Common Questions about Lead and Drinking Water published by Alberta Health Services

https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/eph/Page8294.aspx