Lead Pipes & Drinking Water
Saskatoon’s Water Supply
Saskatoon’s water supply is one of the safest in the world. Test results are reported to the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency as part of our Permit to Operate.
Saskatoon’s water supply is virtually lead-free. The lead level content in the City’s drinking water when it enters the water distribution system is 100 times lower than the Health Canada limit. Health Canada recently updated its directive for exposure to lead and advises that people should not be exposed to lead, as it can cause adverse health effects even at very low levels and recommends reducing lead exposure as much as possible.
Treated City water flows from the Water Treatment Plant to water mains (or pipes) located underground throughout the City. Water enters individual properties through a water service connection.
Lead in Your Drinking Water
Each year the City mails information on reducing lead in drinking water to all properties believed to have a lead connection. If your neighbourhood was established prior to 1950 there could be lead within your home’s plumbing system. As a precaution, homeowners and occupants should be aware of how to reduce their risk of lead exposure from drinking water.
If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, you can have your tap water tested by a private, accredited, licensed laboratory. Look under "Laboratories Testing" online or in the Yellow Pages.
There have been some local inquiries following recent news stories about high levels of lead in some American water supplies. In contrast to Saskatoon’s water, most water in the United States has a more Acidic pH (less than 7.0). The lower the pH, the more acidic waters are. Acidic waters are corrosive and will leach material from piping including lead. Therefore a community with a lot of lead lines and a low pH will see a lot of corrosion in their water lines and high lead levels in their water.
Reducing Your Exposure to Lead
Run your tap before you drink the water.
Lead can dissolve into your drinking water when it sits stagnant in household pipes. Flushing toilets, doing laundry, and running showers all help ensure your drinking water is fresh. If your water has not been used for at least 6 hours, run the cold water faucet for about five minutes before drinking or cooking.
This water does not have to be wasted – it is safe to use for cleaning or watering plants. Keep a container of drinking water in your refrigerator so you don’t have to run water every time you want a drink. Remember that boiling water does not remove lead.
Install a certified water filter
To reduce lead exposure as much as possible, especially for children under six and pregnant women, you may consider drinking water from an alternate source. Alternatively you may attach a National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified filter to a drinking water faucet, or using a certified filtered water pitcher. On the packaging, look for a stamp indicating “NSF-053” and a statement that indicates the filter is certified for lead removal, as some models can vary. These filters can reduce up to 99% of lead in water. Replace filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove and clean your tap screen
Most household taps have an aerating screen attached to the end. Calcium carbonate can build up on the screen and absorb lead. Make it a habit to remove the screen and clean off any build up every month.
Modernize the plumbing system in your home
The most effective way to reduce lead levels in drinking water is to remove all lead sources from your plumbing system. Consider replacing pipes containing older lead solder, and brass fittings with materials certified for contact with drinking water. A licensed plumber can determine if your home has a lead service connection, and whether the home contains lead solder, lead pipes or lead pipe fittings.
For more information on the risks of lead in drinking water visit:
- Health Canada at www.hc-sc.gc.ca and search “LEAD”
- Saskatoon Health Region at www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca or call 306-655-4620
- National Sanitation Foundation at www.nsf.org and search “LEAD”
Lead Pipe Replacement Program
In 2017, lead pipe replacement will occur at approximately 1,000 properties. Many of these will be included in large-scale projects in Buena Vista, Caswell Hill, Holiday Park and Nutana. These property owners will be contacted individually early in the year.
There is no longer a voluntary replacement list, effective August 2016. Locations on that list will be contacted directly for replacement in 2017.
After 2017, approximately 400 lead service pipes will be replaced at the same time as water main and road upgrades each year through to 2026.
Responsibility for water service pipes
The City is responsible for the portion of the connection located on City property and replaces this portion if there is a failure (leak), or if road reconstruction is being completed in the area. You are responsible for the portion of the connection located on your property. When the City is replacing a connection, you must also replace your portion. The City does not allow partial replacement of lead service connections because of the increased risk to public health.
Payment for Replacement
The cost for service pipe replacements is split, with 60% paid by the City and 40% paid by the homeowner. The homeowner’s portion of the costs can be paid three different ways:
- They can pay the contractor directly when the work is complete;
- They can choose a one-year deferment, interest-free, and pay with their property taxes in the next taxation year; or
- If they qualify under the Federal Low Income Cut-Off, they can spread repayment over 10 years.
Homeowners who want to replace their lead service pipes immediately may have the work completed and the City will reimburse the homeowner 60% of the eligible costs (based on City contract pricing) once the address comes up in the City’s replacement program.