The City of Toronto’s old water main infrastructure means that many of us living in houses built before 1950 are drinking water that has unacceptable amounts of lead in it. You can check how much your neighbourhood is affected on this new interactive map and scroll past it to find out what you can do about it.
Is lead in your drinking water bad?
Yes! Lead is connected to various developmental health problems, particularly in children whose brains are still growing. Toronto Public health states that adults and children over six years old are not likely to be affected by the amount of lead in drinking water.
How do I know if there is lead in my water?
If your home was built before the mid 1950’s and has not been upgraded, the city assumes your service connection is lead. If you live in one of these homes, you can have your water tested for free. You can pick up a test kit and instructions at one of the Toronto Public Health offices. The downtown office we use is at 44 Victoria Street, 18th Floor. The process is simple: you take a sample of the water in your home and drop it back off at a public health office.
Note that if you live in an apartment or condo with more than 3 floors, your pipes are not lead, no matter how old the building.
What can I do about it?
In July 2007, City Council approved the Lead Pipe Replacement Program to remove all lead water service connections over as nine-year period. Through this program, the City will replace the City-owned side of the water service connection – the portion of pipe running from the watermain to the property line. The wait for replacement can be long – ours was almost 4 years.
Residents with a lead test result above 10 parts per billion (ppb) will have their pipe changed out on a priority basis. To fully eliminate the risk of lead in drinking water, the private portion of the pipe must be changed also.
Until both portions of the pipe are replaced, you should flush your taps before drawing water for drinking or cooking. Running the cold water tap until the water is cold and then for one full minute after will flush any standing water out of the pipes. This should be done any time you haven’t used water for a long period of time (e.g. overnight).