Regina committee looks to speed up lead service connector replacement by 15 years

An emergency alert has been issued for those who use the Grand Lake Water Supply. (Mackenzie Lad)

The City of Regina is considering fast-tracking its lead service connector replacement program, which would cut its original timeline in half.

There are roughly 3,600 city-owned lead service connections in Regina, mostly located in wards 1, 2 and 3.

The Regina Operations and Community Services Committee voted in favour of a recommendation that would replace all lead connectors — on both public and private property — in the next 15 years, instead of 30 years.

Read more: Saskatchewan residents have some of highest levels of lead-tainted water in Canada

“Residents are very concerned about lead in their water and, if anything, the push from residents was to move more quickly with the program,” councillor and committee chair Bob Hawkins told Global News.

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“There is no safe level of lead.”

ReginaSaskatoon and Moose Jaw have some of the highest measured levels of lead-tainted water in Canada.

That’s according to a collection of 2,600 tap water sampling measurements obtained in a year-long investigation by nine universities and media outlets, including Global News, the University of Regina School of Journalism and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism conducted in 2019.

Fast-tracking the replacement program would make it mandatory for property owners to replace their private lead service connectors at the same time the city-owned ones are being replaced.

Read more: City council commits to replacing Regina’s lead pipes within 5 years

“There are certain homeowners that would qualify for some other programs that would get a break, but generally it’s on the individual homeowner,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said costs vary, but it could set a homeowner back anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. Homeowners would be able to defer their payments and apply it to their property taxes under five- and 10-year programs offered by the city.

The cost of replacing city-owned connectors would come from the utility fund.

According to city administration, the utility model base case proposes a three per cent annual rate increase in each year from 2022 to 2024 to meet the objectives of the utility.

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Accelerating the replacement program by 15 years would require an additional two per cent increase to the utility rate in 2022, for a total rate increase of five per cent.

Click to play video: 'Mayor wants to get rid of lead pipes in Regina by 2025' Mayor wants to get rid of lead pipes in Regina by 2025
Mayor wants to get rid of lead pipes in Regina by 2025 – Nov 22, 2019

In 2018, Regina started sending out letters, alerting roughly 4,000 residents of city-owned lead service connections. The city continues to send out annual notifications to tenants and residents.

While there was some public push to speed up the replacement program to 10 years or less, Hawkins said the best compromise was 15 years.

“If you did it in five years, you’d end up tearing up roads that had just been repaired,” Hawkins said.

“The construction season is short. You’d have whole chunks of the city in construction during the summer season.”

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In the interim, impacted residents can use the city’s filter program which offers three options: a rebate, a tap-mounted filter or a pitcher filter.

According to city administration, uptake on its filter program has been low, but it is on par with other city-run filter programs across the province.

City council is expected to vote on the recommendations next week.

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