Updated: July 2019
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.
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 Toronto 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. Here’s how to do get your water tested:
- Contact 311 to pre-register for a lead testing kit.
- Pick up a kit at one of the locations listed below between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Each kit includes a container and instructions on how to take an accurate sample.
- Drop the sample off at any of the listed locations. Toronto Water staff will collect and test the sample at an accredited Toronto Water lab.
- You will be notified of the results by phone or email within 30 days of submitting a sample
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.
The City of Toronto owns/is responsible for part of the pipes that is on city-owned property – the homeowner owns/is responsible for the private portion.
What can I do about lead?
Toronto has attempted to deal with lead for many years and is currently embracing the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Strategy. It involves:
- Free water testing kits (see above)
- Corrosion control during the treatment process
- Replacing 5,000 substandard water services pipes. Residents who want to change out the private portion of the service can apply to have the City replace their side on a priority basis.
- A faucet filter program to remove lead – Toronto Public Health distributes free filters to some people as part of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program and has a rebate program for those who qualify.
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).