Toronto releases most recent lead test results

The results of the most recent round of lead tests conducted by the City of Toronto show that seven of the 100 residential locations tested exceeded the recommended limit for lead in drinking water. The tests, regulated by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), were carried out from December 2008 to April 2009. These results were anticipated for samples taken during the winter and are consistent with tests taken at the same time last year.

“These results are exactly what we expected,” said Lou Di Gironimo, General Manager, Toronto Water. “They were collected when the water is naturally colder and there is less lead leaching from the water service pipes at that time of year. Samples taken during the summer months, when the water is warmer, can have higher lead levels.”

Di Gironimo also stated, “Replacement of the lead water service is the best solution and we’ll continue to work towards that through our Lead Pipe Replacement Program. Residents with lead pipes should use flushing practices regardless of test results as fresh water coming from the supply system does not contain lead.”

Flushing pipes is a simple process through which residents can remove any standing water from their pipes and draw fresh, cold water from the watermain. “To reduce lead in the water, simply turn on the cold tap, let it run until the water is cold to the touch and then for another minute,” advised Dr. Howard Shapiro, Associate Medical Officer of Health. “Flushing taps before drinking or cooking is the best health precaution. Additionally, those most at risk from negative health impacts from lead – pregnant women and children under the age of six – should use a filter certified by the National Sanitation Foundation for the reduction of lead until their pipes can be replaced.”

In 2007, the MOE implemented a Regulated Lead Testing Program under which Toronto Water must collect samples in areas suspected of having lead service pipes, analyze these samples and submit the results. Samples must be collected from 100 residential water service connections, 20 locations from within the distribution system and 10 non-residential water service connections. Samples are gathered in two separate testing periods, June to October and December to April of each year. Results that exceed 10 parts per billion (ppb) are over limits set by the MOE. Results can be found at www.toronto.ca/water.

The City-owned portion of residential pipes that test above 10 ppb will be replaced on a priority basis – typically within eight to 10 weeks. All other results (less than 10 ppb) will be replaced through the nine-year Lead Pipe Replacement Program.

Homes built after the mid-1950s are not connected to the water supply system with lead pipes. Apartment buildings with more than six units do not have lead pipes as lead is too soft a metal for the size of water service needed for larger buildings.

More information about lead tests, lead pipes and the Lead Pipe Replacement Program can be found at www.toronto.ca/water. More information about the health impacts of lead exposure, NSF-53 filters and flushing can be found at www.toronto.ca/health or by calling Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.