Nov 04, 2019

Canadians Exposed to Lead Levels in Water Higher Than in Flint, Mich.

An investigative project called Tainted Water found cities in Canada with higher levels of lead in their drinking water than in Flint, Mich.

An investigative project called Tainted Water found cities in Canada with higher levels of lead in their drinking water than in Flint, Mich.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, with contamination in some cities higher than in Flint, Mich., according to the Washington Post

The investigative project, called Tainted Water, is a collaboration between nine universities, 10 partner media companies and more than 120 journalists. The project measured exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada. 

Out of the 12,000 tests conducted since 2014, 33% exceeded the national safety guideline of 5 ppb and 18% exceeded 15 ppb, reported the Washington Post. The investigation also found some Canadian schools and daycares with high lead levels.

Residents across Quebec could be getting misleading information from municipal workers about the quality of their water because of outdated testing, according to Global News. The testing method requires taps to be flushed for five minutes prior to taking water samples, which tends to lower the amount of lead detected, ultimately failing to identify maximum exposure to lead.

A federal parliamentary committee December 2017 report revealed that at least 500,000 homes across Canada were being serviced by antiquated lead pipes, according to Global News.

There are currently no national mandates to test drinking water for lead in Canada. Lead testing results are also rarely made public. 

“Because there is no federal oversight, everybody does what they want,” said engineering professor Michèle Prévost. “Most provinces ignore this very serious problem.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has vowed to test 100,000 homes for lead and speed up replacement of lead-lined pipes. 

“I don’t want citizens to be worried. We have a good understanding of what type of houses, which areas in town have more chances to be in contact with those lead service lines,” said Plante in an interview with Global News. “I don’t want people to fear drinking water...It’s not about the water, it’s about the water pipes. This is what carries the lead, right?”

Montreal will bill owners for their own portion of the replacement, giving households 15 years to pay the bill, according to Plante’s interview with Global News. The city will spend over $500 million to pay for the public portion of the pipes. The city is offering free filters to households with high lead levels in their tap water and introducing a website allows residents to search their address to determine if they might have a lead problem.

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