Regina city council has voted in favour of accelerating the Lead Service Connection Management Program.
This means the city will aim to replace all lead service connections by 2025 – on the both the municipal side of the connection as well as on the homeowner’s side.
“This a question of public health,” said Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, who made the motion at Tuesday’s special council meeting.
“We want to emphasize 95 per cent of the water connections in the city itself are lead free – it’s for homes built in the 1960s and ’50s.
“It’s contained to a small geographical area in the city, but they should be safe, they should have safe drinking water and we’re going to make sure that happens.”
Fougere proposed the new plan in the wake of a year-long investigation by a consortium of media outlets and universities, including Global News, the University of Regina and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism that revealed many Canadians across the country were exposed to high levels of lead in tap water without being adequately informed by their local governments.
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 municipal lead connections.
Each service line costs about $10,000 to replace, meaning this is at least a $36,000,000 undertaking.
Steve Wolfson had tainted water. The city replaced its lead service line in his neighbourhood over the summer.
He said he was pessimistic about the prospect of replacing the rest of city’s lead service lines but is pleased to hear the city is going with a five-year plan.
“The plan sounds really good,” said Wolfson, noting the city has to be aggressive. “We can’t wait 22 years to turn this problem around.”
He said he hopes that extensive education and support, especially for renters in low-income areas, will be a priority.
The city does not know how many homeowners still have lead pipes and encourages people who are unsure to have their water tested.
As part of the acceleration of the program, the city is looking at providing financial support to homeowners, funding part or all of the costs of replacing a connection upfront. Homeowners would pay that money back over time.
In the interim, the city will provide free filters to residents with tainted water. Council agreed that should be the case until all of the lead service lines that the city knows about are replaced.
It will also be researching adding orthophosphate to the city’s water supply to help mitigate lead content in the water through corrosion control and is promising better communication with residents about the nature of lead connections along with their potential impacts.
Administration has been tasked with preparing a report on the details of this plan for the city’s public works and infrastructure committee in the spring
The mayor said the Lead Service Connection Management Program will be continue to be funded through the utility budget, meaning the cost won’t on taxpayers.