Is Your Water Safe?

Lead in Water
As June comes to a close, many are rejoicing over the fact that yet another school year is coming to a close, and family vacations will soon be here. For me, the last day of June signifies one of those coming of age milestones I used to hear so much about, but rarely paid any attention to. In that respect, the 30th of June is moving day for my fiancé and I, as we bid farewell to the world of renting, and take possession of our newly purchased, vintage home. It’s a very exciting time, and I honestly can’t wait to tackle the never ending list of projects around the house. At the top of the to-do list, is a problem identified by our home inspector, who discovered that we have a lead-based pipe connecting our house to the main water line. This is the sort of problem a Brita water filter can’t fix.

Across Canada, homes built prior to 1950 are likely to have lead service connections, while newer homes may have lead solder, both of which can make you seriously ill. Health Canada reports that “short-term exposure to high levels of lead can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma or even death. Severe cases of lead poisoning are rare in Canada”. The lead levels in drinking water are set by the Ontario Government at 10 micrograms per litre. To put this in perspective, this represents about one-half of a BB pellet dissolved in a typical backyard swimming pool. The water entering the St. Lawrence is monitored at Wolfe Island, and the typical lead-level seen there is 0.016 micrograms per litre, or about one five-hundredth of the allowable amount. Although that’s a reassuring reading, it’s not indicative of what’s actually coming out of kitchen faucet across Kingston, especially if you have a lead service connection.

Recently, Utilities Kingston announced that they were seeking 200 homes to conduct a second round of lead-level testing. The first round sampled 322 homes in the City of Kingston, who were deemed to be potentially at risk due to their date of construction. In line with historical data, the new study turned up zero cause for concern. That said, the test involved a Utilities Kingston worker taking three one-litre samples of water from a faucet that has been flushed for five minutes and then left to stand for 30 minutes. Hardly the perfect picture of water conservation, or convenience to the average person.

When I contacted Utilities to set up service at my new address, I inquired about the testing, and of course they advised that my home qualified. Unfortunately, the testing shall take place later on in the Summer and will span into the Fall, which is far too long for my liking. Then again, it’s not as though I’m overly interested in the results, as I’m more concerned about the conservation, convenience, cost, and ultimately the health implications of the lead pipe that’s bringing water to my home. Thankfully, Utilities Kingston is eager to remove all lead connections, and they will pay for the replacement up to my property line. Although I’ve got a million other projects I’m looking forward to, this one just made it to the top of the priority list.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

One thought on “Is Your Water Safe?

  • Is this guy drinking out a mud puddle or something. I had my water “tested” and there were of course no problems, but the test is flawed.

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