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Drinking water standards set to change as of January

The Town of St. Paul will be taking steps to meet new drinking water standards that are being put in place as of Jan. 1, 2020.
The Town of St. Paul will be taking steps to meet new drinking water standards that are being put in place as of Jan. 1, 2020. The federal drinking water guidelines are being updated bringing the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water from 0.01 mg/L to 0.005 mg/L.

According to a March 2019 news release from the Government of Canada “is committed to safeguarding the health of all Canadians and to protecting the environment from toxic substances, including lead,” reads the release. The change is based on the most recent science available.

Samples are based on water taken at the tap, and using the appropriate protocol for the type of building being sampled. “Every effort should be made to maintain lead levels in drinking water as low as reasonably achievable,” according to the release.

On Dec. 9, Bert Pruneau, director of utilities, spoke to council during the regular council meeting, explaining the changes and how it may affect some town residents living in older homes, or even newer homes that have old pipes.

He explained that taking samples straight from the tap is a new process. Previously, the town would test its water supply at a few different locations in town, rather than individual residences. The changes will require a shift in how the town thinks about its role on the topic.

Pruneau noted the changes will result in more work, but municipalities have been given time to set up record management and communication strategies, among other items. He added that 40 individual samples will have to be taken throughout the town in the next two years.

The town will target homes built on and before 1965, to start with, although he noted that newer homes built as infill may have old pipes too. There is a possibility of older pipes being left in the ground, leading to a newer residence in some cases.

Samples will be sent to a lab to be tested, which costs at minimum about $25 per sample.

Pruneau also explained that the town is “ahead of the game” when it comes to the use of corrosion inhibitors in its distribution system. The products have been used for about 10 years now when it was noticed that the town’s water was “aggressive.”

If there are issues within the Town of St. Paul, it is not because of the town’s distribution system, heard council, but rather the lead is coming from somewhere within the household, or private property. Any issues between the CC valve and the house would be the property owner’s responsibility.

There are some simple tips that can help homeowners rest a little easier, such as running the water for a few minutes in the morning before taking a drink, says Pruneau. Also, there are filters available that can be installed at the tap.

Another area of concern brought up was schools in the town. Pruneau noted that caretakers in larger old facilities can also run the water for a period of time in the mornings, and acknowledged that some education will be needed on the topic.

Coun. Nathan Taylor asked Pruneau if residents who are concerned can request to be one of the first homes tested, to which Pruneau replied yes.

“I think compared to a lot of communities, we are in pretty good shape,” said CAO Kim Heyman.

In an email sent to the Journal last month, Heyman acknowledged that when it comes to lead in water, “older houses may well have an issue if they have either lead connecting lines from the mains or lead distribution lines within the houses. Standards have changed considerably in the past 50 years and lead pipes aren’t used anymore, but brass fittings could cause a lead problem especially if they are older.”

County of St. Paul Utility staff just received the Fact Sheet from Alberta Environment and Parks regarding this issue last week at the RUSA Conference, said CAO Sheila Kitz, when asked about the county’s plan to deal with the new standards.

“We will be developing our plan to deal with this change and be presenting to council early in the New Year,” she confirmed, via email. Noting, the county will be happy to share its plan once it is in place.

The effects of lead in water

“Inorganic lead compounds have been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on findings in experimental animals. However, the cancer effects are not the main health effects of concern in humans,” reads the federal release.

“The toxicity of lead has been extensively documented in humans, based on blood lead levels (BLLs). Effects that have been studied include increased blood pressure and renal dysfunction in adults, as well as adverse cognitive and behavioural effects in children. The strongest association observed to date is between increased BLLs in children and reductions in intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, which is the key health endpoint of concern.

The threshold below which lead is no longer associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects has not been identified. As the MAC exceeds the drinking water concentration associated with neurodevelopmental effects in children, every effort should be made to maintain lead levels in drinking water as low as reasonably achievable.”


Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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