Regina city council is holding a special meeting regarding the lead crisis in the Queen City on Tuesday – hoping to speed up the Lead Service Connection Management Program.
Michael Fougere, Regina mayor, wants to replace all of the lead pipes transporting tainted water into people’s homes within six years.
“We need to do the work and we should do that work,” Fougere said on Nov. 22.
While 95 per cent of the water supply in Regina is lead-free, about 5 per cent of is transported through lead service lines. An investigation by Global News and other partners, including the Regina Leader-Post, journalism students at the University of Regina and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism revealed water samples from Regina tested at some of the highest measurements of lead in the country.
In addition to speeding up efforts to swap out lead connections in municipal infrastructure, the mayor wants to look at options for supporting homeowners to do the same thing, potentially through repayment or cost-sharing plans.
“We’re looking at the best practices to see what the best method to do this is,” Fougere said.
The city is on track to replace 160 lead service lines by the end of the year. At that rate, it would take about 22 years to fix the 3,600 lead connections throughout Regina.
The mayor wants to complete them all by 2025, which would mean replacing 600 per year.
The average cost of replacing a lead connection is between $10,000 and $15,000, city staff said in an email.
Fougere is also interested in learning more about adding a non-toxic chemical, orthophosphate, into the city’s water supply at the water treatment plant. Other cities with lead pipes – for example, Toronto – already do so for corrosion control and have lower levels of tainted water.
He said if it is an effective and practical method for Regina to pursue, he wants to see it employed with the replacements are being completed.
The city has budgeted approximately $400,000 in 2020 and 2021 to test a corrosion control plan, city staff said in an email.
The mayor’s proposed enhancements would also include extending the length of time that residents with tainted water are entitled to free filters from one year to three years.
The mayor’s motion, if successful, would result in a detailed report in the spring answering outstanding questions, including how much it would cost to implement these changes to the existing Lead Service Connection Management Program.
Fougere said he recognizes it will be expensive.
The city has earmarked $10 million in the five-year capital plan.
“We’re looking at public safety, public health,” Fougere said.
Unanimous consent is required to discuss the notice of motion at Monday’s council meeting.