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Lethbridge ‘very fortunate’ amid Canada-wide concerns over tainted tap water: official

WATCH ABOVE: After high quantities of lead were found in the drinking water of some major cities across Canada, the City of Lethbridge’s water and wastewater manager is attributing a number of factors to lower lead concentration in Lethbridge-area tap water. Emily Olsen reports.

EDITORS NOTE: A previous version incorrectly stated federal health guidelines for lead in parts per million instead of parts per billion. This article has been corrected. Global News regrets the error.

Since a country-wide investigation revealed concerning levels of lead in tap water across Canada, Lethbridge water and wastewater general manager Doug Kaupp says he’s received concerned calls from many residents.

Lethbridge was not among the cities tested in that investigation, but Kaupp says Lethbridge is lucky, due to number of factors.

“We have about 125 properties in Lethbridge, which is a third of a percent of the community, that are still lead,” Kaupp said.

“We did a lot of sampling at places we knew had lead services and none of them exceeded the limits.”

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READ MORE: Investigation into lead in Canada’s drinking water spurs calls for action across country

Kaupp says Lethbridge maintains its water at a pH of eight. 

The lower acidity decreases the risk of traces of lead eroding from pipes into the water.

Kaupp also says Lethbridge is fortunate to have hard water, which creates scaling or mineral buildup inside the pipes and acts as a barrier between the water and pipe.

“In communities that have softer, more corrosive water, it dissolves the lead pipes where they exist,” Kaupp said.

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Regular testing and steady replacement of known lead pipe infrastructure all contribute to the lower levels of lead found in household tap water.

Kaupp says the west side of the city does not have any lead pipes on record. 

He says the only ones listed in city records are primarily found in older neighborhoods which are tested and replaced as needed.

“As we discover them, we replace them,” Kaupp said.

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“They will all be replaced in coming years.”

School divisions in the region say they’re already communicating with the city to ensure water safety in schools.

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READ MORE: Some Alberta daycares and schools may contain high levels of lead in drinking water

Palliser School Division confirmed to Global News it has started collecting samples for testing already.

“Those samples will be sent to a private lab for testing,” the Palliser School Division said in a statement.

“Should those tests indicate further steps need to be taken to provide safe drinking water, Palliser will work with the government to remediate the situation as quickly as possible. The need to collect and test water samples for lead levels has not been identified in the past, and as such, Palliser has not included this in its scheduled safety procedures in the past. It should be noted that the federal government just reduced by half the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water as of March 2019.”

Alberta Health Services said completed test results from a municipality or organization can be sent to AHS for interpretation.

READ MORE: Is Canada’s tap water safe? Thousands of test results show high lead levels across the country

AHS is also encouraging anyone interested in testing their own tap water to reach out to their local municipality or utility for help.

Kaupp agrees it’s a good idea for people to call the city if they are concerned about tap water quality, especially in homes built before 1960.

“The age of your home is a really good indication,” he said.

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“The last time we did an investigation here in Lethbridge, there was no need for concern,” Kaupp added.

The federal government lowered the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water in March from 10 parts per billion to five parts per billion.