Lead Water Service  FAQ's

Where is lead most commonly found?

Lead is a metal compound that is present in the natural environment and has been used in many consumer products over the years. Today, lead is found in food, air, water, old paint, soil and dust. Lead can be taken in by the body when ingested or inhaled. Amounts taken in can vary from person to person depending on the form the lead is in and the person's metabolism.

Am I in danger?

There have been very few reported cases of lead poisoning in Canada. Lead exposure has been reduced over the last 40 years with the elimination of lead used in food cans, gasoline, paint, solder and lead service connections. At the concentrations of lead in the environment today, exposure to lead is of a chronic nature and takes a considerable amount of time to manifest itself, particularly in adults.

Who is most at risk?

Because of the smaller mass and higher metabolism of children under six years of age, (including infants and the fetuses of pregnant women), these populations are most at risk.

How does City of St. Thomas water rate?

The City of St. Thomas' drinking water system supplies water of a quality that is well within the drinking water quality standards set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Tested annually, the City's distribution system lead levels are very low - generally less than 1 microgram per litre. This is significantly lower than the Provincial Drinking Water Quality Standard of 10 micrograms per litre.

Why would some households test higher for lead in their drinking water?

Some homes in St. Thomas, built before the mid-1950s, may have lead levels higher than Provincial Standards due to lead water pipes (water services) running from the City's water main in the street into the home. As water travels through the lead service pipe it can uptake trace amounts of lead and may exceed the Provincial Standard.

How can I tell if I have a lead service type of connection?

Lead service connections were used in St. Thomas prior to the mid-1950s. To check for yourself, locate your water meter, typically found in the basement, and look at the pipe coming up through the basement floor into the bottom of the water meter. Lead is grey, does not echo if you gently tap it, scratches easily and leaves metallic marks when you rub the scratched area against paper. "Camaloid" piping also is a pipe variety with lead in its alloy material. This metal pipe gets brittle over time and shears off easily when worked on.

If I have a lead service pipe, what can I do to reduce lead in my drinking water?

If you have a lead water service, the best way to reduce your lead exposure is to replace the service pipe. See the bullet points below for more information on the Service Replacement Program.

You can also purchase water filters that attach to the faucet to remove lead from tap water. Refrigerator water filters can also remove lead. Make sure that the filter is certified to meet the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) international standard for lead reduction by looking for the "ANSI/NSF 53" stamp on the packaging. When using filtration devices, it is very important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Can I have my water tested for lead levels?

The City will test water in homes that have lead service connections. This service is paid for by the City. To find out if your home has lead water pipes and to request a water sample test, call the Public Works Service Centre 519-631-0368 and dial ext.'5121' for the Manager of Water and Sewer or ext. ‘0' for the Operations Clerk.

Each homeowner who will have their water tested will be provided with written results as well as further background information.

Can I have my service connection replaced?

Homeowners should be interested in replacing their lead service pipe. Water services run across both private property and public property. The City of St. Thomas will replace the portion of the water service on public property for single detached residences at City expense, in conjunction with the home owner's initiative to replace their portion of the service.

If you wish to replace your water service, most licensed plumbing contractors listed in the Yellow Pages should be capable of performing such work. It is always a good practice to solicit quotes from more than one source and to ask questions regarding the different methods of replacement that may exist.

Your contractor will have to obtain a Plumbing Permit from the City of St.Thomas. The permit can be obtained at City Hall, Planning and Building Division,  1st Floor, City Hall Annex (Phone: 519-631-1680 ext. 4160).

Once the private portion of the water service has been replaced, the replacement of the City side of the water service connection will be prioritized and scheduled for completion.  

Upon completion of the service replacement, the City's Water Operating Staff will perform a follow-up water sample analysis in order to quantify the lead level improvement, if you so desire.

 

Is this a problem that is particularly affecting St. Thomas?

No. Virtually all municipalities in North America have used lead for service pipes to homes constructed prior to the mid-1950s.

Where can I get more information about lead?

For more information, please contact the Environmental Services Water Operations staff at 519-631-0368 ext. 5121. further information is available by following the links listed below:

Some Commonly Asked Questions About Lead and Human Health

Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

Southwestern Public Health  - Lead Exposure